Veterans, residents, artist gather for official unveiling of Hamilton County Freedom Rock

Artist Ray “Bubba” Sorenson Jr. talks about the Freedom Rock he painted in Stratford as part of the dedication ceremony on Saturday afternoon. The Hamilton County Freedom Rock is the 66th completed.

STRATFORD — Area veterans and other local residents gathered Saturday afternoon in Stratford for the dedication of the Hamilton County Freedom Rock.

With a theme of “Generations of Service in Hamilton County,” the Hamilton County Freedom Rock depicts uniformed male and female service members from a variety of eras. The rock also features the image of Hamilton County’s Lt. Maurice Esters, one of the famous Tuskegee Airmen. Across the top of the rock is draped an American Flag, something that the artist, Ray “Bubba” Sorenson Jr., who was in attendance at the dedication, said he likes to incorporate into all of the Freedom Rocks.

“The American Flag over the top doesn’t represent just the veterans,” he said. “It represents all of us, all of us patriots.”

In visiting with the Hamilton County Freedom Rock committee about the many families of area residents who have served in the military through the years, Sorenson said the theme of Generations of Service developed.

“With the Freedom Rock, it’s not like your usual memorial where you might put the seals of every branch (of the military) and make sure all were equally represented,” he said. “What I wanted to do was to make each one a piece of 99-piece puzzle. A small snippet or story or a certain veteran or a certain era.”

Hamilton County Supervisor Doug Bailey spoke during the Freedom Rock dedication and talked about Webster City's Tuskegee Airman Lt. Maurice Esters.

He said that then by touring all of the Freedom Rocks, visitors will have an opportunity to see a wide variety of stories and unique things about Iowa.

The rock in Stratford rests on a custom-made stand on a corner lot of Shakespeare Avenue. Designer Tim Adams of Stony Creek Landscapes also spoke about the design for the park. Special lighted half walls highlight the names of county veterans. American Legion posts in the county provided benches which surround the Freedom Rock.

Hamilton County Supervisor Doug Bailey offered the dedication remarks on behalf of the county. He told the story of Airman Maurice Esters who was forced to bail out of his aircraft over the Adriatic Sea.

“The final sighting of the Tuskegee Airman from Webster City was of him in a life raft being engulfed by a massive wave,” Bailey said. He also spoke about Hamilton County’s ties to the Red Bull Division.

Freedom Rock Committee member Rachel Cahill thanked the donors who made the completion of the park possible.

—Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Anne Blankenship Artist Ray “Bubba” Sorenson Jr. attended the dedication of the Hamilton County Freedom Rock Saturday afternoon in Stratford. He took time to shake hands, meet with local residents and sign a few autographs after the ceremony.

“Two and half years ago our committee was created to work on ideas for the Hamilton County Freedom Rock and the park,” she said. “We wanted the park with the Freedom Rock to first and primarily honor veterans and their families’ sacrifices. The second goal was to have the park benefit the whole of Hamilton County, third to add beauty and significance while being a learning tool for all.”

Cahill said the final goal was to offer people a place to talk about military history and a place to socialize about common threads.

A group of school children led the singing of the National Anthem and American Legion Chaplain Bruce Johnston gave the dedication prayer.