The Freedom RockThere is a spot off the beaten path in rural Iowa where the true meaning of Memorial Day lives on in vibrant color.  While the paintings on the 56 ton, 12 ft granite boulder are truly a work of art, what is even more remarkable, is that the talented artist, Ray "Bubba" Sorenson II, was only 19 years old when he painted his first Memorial Day tribute.

Sorenson says he was inspired by the film "Saving Private Ryan", which he left feeling like patriotism was at an all time low and that too many of us had forgotten that Memorial Day is about the Veterans, not another three-day weekend.  Driving by that huge granite boulder he had the idea of delivering the message was that was burning a hole in his soul with a painting honoring the Veterans. 

Up until Sorenson began painting his yearly memorial to Veterans, the rock had been known as Graffiti Rock, where many generations of kids had painted slogans, names and obscenities.  Incredibly, since this talented young artist laid claim to the rock it has been virtually left alone, its annual message too sacred to desecrate.

He created his first tribute in 1999 with a beautiful depiction of the flag raising at Iwo Jima that included the words "Thank You Veterans For Our Freedom".   This powerful reminder of what Memorial Day is really about captured the hearts of many.

Since then, every year around Memorial Day, Ray uses white paint to cover over his previous year's work and then spends a few weeks time creating new scenes on his blank canvas.  Now dubbed "The Freedom Rock", this famous Iowa landmark has featured Washington's crossing of the Delaware, the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington, D.C. and America's response to the September 11 terrorist attacks. 

People come from all over the United States and the world to visit The Freedom RockThe Freedom Rock.  However, it is much more than a well known painted rock.  For Veterans and their families it is a shrine to the brave people who have fought so valiantly for OUR freedom. 

There are countless touching stories about the Freedom Rock including one about a family of a deceased Vietnam veteran who came to visit the rock carrying an urn with the ashes of their son.  They wanted to scatter the ashes around the rock but it was too windy.  So Ray who was painting at the time, put the ashes in the paint so they would be affixed there forever.

This Memorial Day I hope the story of this young man will touch you as deeply as it has me, and you'll take time from enjoying the three day weekend to pay tribute in some small way to our Veterans.