Calhoun Freedom Rock is to honor veterans

ROCKWELL CITY – Calhoun County is honoring its veterans by creating a memorial outside the Calhoun County Courthouse.

At the center of the memorial is a Freedom Rock, which Ray Sorensen has been painting since Monday.

“I was inspired by my uncle Ted, who served in Vietnam,” Sorensen said.

Sorensen travels Iowa painting Freedom Rocks; his goal is to paint one in each of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Calhoun County is his 20th.

“I’ve always had a love and respect for our veterans,” Sorensen said.

The Calhoun County Freedom Rock sits in a bed of gravel surrounded by a stone wall. It is only part of what will be a veterans memorial.

“It will be a full-fledged veterans memorial with the rock being the focal point,” said Theresa Hildreth, a member of the Calhoun County Freedom Rock Committee.

Around the rock, the county plans to install seven flag poles, which have already been funded.

After more fundraising, the memorial will include benches and a paving stone patio.

“It’s a great way to honor our Calhoun County soldiers, past, present and future,” Hildreth said. “It will be a place where people can memorialize their loved ones.”

She expects the paving stone patio to be installed next spring.

She is also planning a Freedom Rock motorcycle ride for next spring; the 311-mile ride will tour Freedom Rocks in surrounding counties.

The rock that Sorensen has been painting was donated by Bill and Janet Anderson of Rockwell City.

Rockwell City commissioned Sorensen to paint the rock with the approval of the Calhoun County Board of Supervisors.

This is the second year Sorensen has been on his Freedom Rock tour.

He started it after painting the first Freedom Rock, which weighs more than 60 tons.

“I saw how veterans were treated,” he said.

He was inspired by the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” when the troops stormed the beaches of Normandy.

“I thought of how lucky I was that I didn’t have to do that.”

Sorensen paints about 10 rocks a year and expects to be working on the Freedom Rock tour for about 10 years.

To honor veterans who have died, he paints their ashes into some of the Freedom Rocks.

The original Freedom Rock is painted with the ashes of more than 70 veterans.