A day more than a year in the making, Jones County’s Freedom Rock was unveiled to the public Sept. 4 in Stone City.
“We want to make this area the pride of Jones County,” emcee Col. Clyde Meyer, US Army (Ret.) told the large crowd gathered to witness the unveiling.
The county’s rock was the penultimate rock to be finished in Iowa’s 99 counties, with just Linn County’s yet to be completed. Artist Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II started the Freedom Rock project in 1999, when he painted a thank you to veterans on a rock in Menlo along with the famous flag raising on Iwo Jima. In 2008, Sorensen and his wife started a mural painting business and began thinking about painting “Freedom Rocks” in all 99-counties. The Freedom Rock Tour aims to boost tourism and spread the message of thanking our veterans while providing a unique design to their area Freedom Rock for all 99 counties in the great state of Iowa. The tour began in 2013. Each year, he also repaints the original Freedom Rock on Memorial Day.
During the presentation, Cheyenne Lerch explained the reasoning behind what was on each side of Jones County’s Freedom Rock. The rock on one side highlights Military Highway 1, the first federally funded highway west of the Mississippi River. Grant Wood, who is buried just a few miles down the road in Anamosa’s Riverside Cemetery, is also depicted on that side alongside a tank to commemorate his service in World War I painting tanks.
The other side of the rock highlights veterans from every one of America’s conflicts from Jones County. The veterans depicted are: Israel Fisher of the Revolutionary War, Alexander Crawford from the War of 1812, William T. Shaw of both the Mexican-American War and the Civil War, Arthur McCullough from World War I, Pauline Quigley from World War I, Gale Edwards from World War II, Charles Ricklefs from the Korean War, William Rees from the Vietnam War, Becky DirksHaugsted from Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Craig Amundson 9/11 and Terryl Pasker Operation Enduring Freedom. The veterans are depicted around the perimeter of a folded flag.
As usual, the rock also contains a depiction of the American flag, something each Freedom Rock has.
Meyer introduced the committee that helped spearhead the Freedom Rock process thanked Weber Stone for donating the rock and the land that the rock sat on. Donations are still being accepted for a pavilion to put over the rock, dedication bricks, security and informational kiosks.
Meyer said that he hoped that the rock served as not only a great and lasting tribute to area veterans but also a reminder to the general public about the cost of freedom.
“If we don’t do our job on the home front, the job they do on the battlefield is all for naught,” he said. “We all share in meeting that cost.”
At the conclusion of the planned program, gold star families were given a tour of the rock before the general public got their chance to take a closer look at the rock.