Freedom Rock

MENLO — While formal Memorial Day programs have been cut back or cancelled for this year, one long time tradition is still going on — you can still go out to see the Freedom Rock.

Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II was inspired by the movie Saving Private Ryan, and wanted to honor veterans in a unique way — and in 1999 established the Freedom Rock, a 12 foot tall, 60 plus ton boulder located at 1199 State Highway 25 near Menlo.

Each year Sorensen repaints the rock with a different theme, and since it all began has placed smaller Freedom Rocks in each county around the state — every county either has a completed rock or is booked to do one, he has about 12 left to be done. He has also started a 50 State Freedom Rock Tour, with rocks already painted in Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Washington.

This year he’s working on the 22nd annual edition of the rock and plans to be completed by Memorial Day. While visitors are welcome at the site, Sorensen reminds those stopping to maintain social distancing.

This year’s image includes a nod to the coronavirus pandemic, honoring a military nurse with a mask and the USNS Comfort, coming into New York harbor. The front shows the men of “Raising of the Flag on Iwo Jima,” a well known image. It was noted that the Marine Corps had closed an investigation on who took part in that iconic flag raising and the group included an Iowan, Harold Keller. A Huey helicopter stayed on the rock for this year — the paint used for it was mixed with the ashes of Vietnam Veterans since 2006.