WILTON, Iowa–22 years ago, Representative Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II had never painted a mural. Never the less, after watching the film, “Saving Privet Ryan” he felt compelled to create something to honor veterans. Sorensen requested permission from a local business in Greenfield to paint a mural on a rock on their property that frequently attracted graffiti. They agreed, and Sorensen created the first Freedom Rock. Each year at Memorial Day, Sorensen revisited the rock, painting a new scene on it.
In 2013, Sorensen decided he wanted to bring his murals to each of Iowa’s 99 counties to tell the stories of their veterans from the Revolutionary War to present conflicts. Through Sorensen Studios, a mural and photography business which he and his wife run, he created an application for cities to fill out to request a rock. The first city in each county to request a Freedom Rock would receive it.
Last year, Sorensen received a request from Wilton to have Muscatine County’s rock placed in front of their historic rail depot. Sorensen accepted their application, and from May 26 to June 2, Sorensen painted it, making it the 88th rock he completed in Iowa (several other states have commissioned Freedom Rocks as well). Its designs featured scenes from several Muscatine County veteran’s experiences, including those of a rear admiral on the aircraft carrier George H. W. Bush, a World War II pilot shot down in his B-42 bomber, and a solider who fought off many Viet Cong soldiers during the Vietnam War. “We just went through local stoires and I found veterans whose stories I thought I could tell,” explained Sorensen.
At the top of the rock, Sorensen painted a flag, a signature design that he feels unites those who view it. “I put the flag over the top of each not just for all veterans but for all Americans,” he stated.
Sorensen also uses common elements to connect each Freedom Rock into a larger mural, which he encourages people to travel around and see. Sorensen feels deeply honored to pay tribute to America’s veterans and to encourage Iowa tourism and make a living for his family in the process.
May 29, Muscatine Senator Mark Lofgren came to visit Sorensen, who he works with in the legislature, and to see the progress made on the Muscatine County Freedom Rock. “What he’s doing is amazing,” said Lofgren. “It’ll be exciting when everyone sees the unveiling,” he added.