This article originally appeared on Explore Iowa.

Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II, a born and raised Iowan, is the artist responsible for the original Freedom Rock and the Freedom Rock Tour.  Freedom Rocks are large stones that Sorensen brings to life through his painting to honor and remember Servicemen and women.  He got the idea to start the Freedom Rock while watching the first half hour of Saving Private Ryan, when American soldiers stormed Omaha Beach.  “I felt very lucky that that was all the closer I had been to war, sitting in a movie theater. I  knew then that I wanted to do something special for our Veterans to let them know we all appreciate what they’ve done for us,”  Sorensen said.

In 1999, Sorensen began painting the Original Adair County Freedom Rock, which he repaints every year with a new look to honor our Veterans. In 2013, he decided to “pull the trigger” on starting the Freedom Rock Tour.  Over the next eight to 10 years Ray plans to paint a Freedom Rock in all 99 Iowa counties (Jasper County Rock pictured below).  He is also considering doing a Freedom Rock in all 50 states.

When asked how the specific theme for each rock is decided Sorensen explained, “I do research on the specific area/county and ask for ideas from the Freedom Rock committee.” In other words, each Freedom Rock is unique to its own county with a special connection.  At every stop Veterans share their stories with the artist, inspiring him to continue on this tour.

Freedom Rocks

When I reached out to Sorensen, he was finishing the Black Hawk County Freedom Rock and told me about getting to know Taylor Morris, a Veteran who is featured on the Black Hawk County Rock.

“Taylor was an EOD in the Navy and lost all four limbs when he stepped on a IED,”  Sorensen noted.  “He’s incredibly inspirational and just a powerful story to illustrate the perseverance of our Veterans.” You can learn more about Taylor and his story on the Taylor Morris Community Support page on Facebook.

What is the most rewarding part of the Freedom Rock Tour? For Sorensen, it’s “letting all the Veterans know that we appreciate what they’ve done in service of our country and earning their approval.”

Every rock the Sorensen paints is a large time commitment away from his home.  He said he would not be able to do the tour without his wife, who not only cares for both of their young children while he is away, but also does his scheduling, orders materials, answers calls, responds to emails, does their taxes and many other things.  I think it would be fair to say Maria, Sorensen’s wife, is his rock.  The painter also said that his parents have supported him and have been by his side for the entire Freedom Rock experience.  John Porter, the Sergeant at Arms of the original Freedom Rock, is a Vietnam Veteran and friend of Ray who takes care of the flags at the original Freedom Rock.

Editor’s note: All photos are used with permission from Ray & Maria Sorensen and can be found on The Freedom Rock Facebook page. Learn more about Ray and the Freedom Rocks here.

Nick Moorehead A native of Grinnell, Iowa, Nick Moorehead is currently a student at the University of Northern Iowa, pursuing a bachelors degree in history, with minors in marketing, interactive digital studies and business communication.

Share this story

Published on Oct. 1, 2015

Estimated reading time is 3 min.

Views to date: 77


  1. Kevin October 21, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    Gerald Long worth seeing the Freedom Rock? :)

  2. Gerald Long October 2, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    He is GREAT. I live here in Iowa have seen his annual rocks every year since we moved here in 03. My wife and I have started going around and visiting his rock paintings in each county and taken pics of them, we hope we can make all 99. We just got started when we took a trip north, so far 10 counties. Each one so special to that county and he makes it special when he paints them. Visitors traveling through Iowa I-80, take the exit and view his annual FREEDOM ROCK, its not far.

  3. Karl speights October 2, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    This is a promising article. It shows there is patriotism in one youth. Supporting the military besides lip service is a lesson our leaders in all levels of the government need to understand better and/or learn; starting with our president. YOU, mr. VA asked for my opinion, not comment…so here it is! There are 10 ‘types of govt’ beginning with monarchy, republic, federal system, constitutional, dictatorial, parliamentary, totalitarian nazi, socialism, communism and anarch(y)ism. There are collective descriptive a to each, but the theories seldom vary. A leaderless head of state allows diversion/divisive tolerance: socialism and anarchy, a leader proponent of individualism as incentive for dictatorial rule. Where does our leadership lean. Read my next post; Liberty.

Comments are closed.

More Stories

  • During Sickle Cell Awareness Month in September, the American Red Cross emphasizes the importance of a diverse blood supply to help meet the needs of those with sickle cell disease – the most common inherited blood disorder in the U.S.

  • CaringBridge, a free online tool to communicate health news to family and friends, is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

  • Shahpur Pazhman flew Black Hawk missions in 27 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, resupplying and relocating Afghan ground forces and evacuating casualties to safety. Thanks to Bridge My Return, he's back in the air.