Freedom Rock Painter Pays Tribute to Veterans

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Thursday is Veteran's Day and across America, people are saluting the men and women who have risked and sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom.

In Iowa, one artist is paying veterans a tribute they will never forget.

Ray Sorensen, known to the locals of Greenfield, Iowa, as "Bubba," had no idea what a little paint, a lot of patriotism and his artistic talent could accomplish. After he saw the movie, "Saving Private Ryan," he decided to use the town's local graffiti rock as a canvas in order to thank veterans.

"The first very first time I painted it in 1999, I thought that's my graffiti, that's my one time. I did it. That's it. Move on," Sorensen said. "But the veterans liked it so much that they said, 'Hey, can you do that again?'

"I'm going to take a step further and paint something completely different," he added.

Over the years, "Bubba" has used his talent to thank every branch of the military and numerous individuals. He has also memorialized countless battles and wars from our country's past.

"They've taken the time for us, for America, for the rest of the world really, to preserve our freedom, preserve our liberty, preserve our way of life," he explained. "It's the least I can do."

In 2006, several Vietnam veterans wanted to scatter the ashes of fellow veterans and friends at the rock site.

"I said it's so windy your ashes are going to blow away in the wind, so dump them in my green paint here and I'll paint them on and they'll be on the rock forever and they loved that idea," Sorensen said. "And seven veterans got dumped in at that time. And since then, I've changed the two helicopters into one big one, because I added more ashes and now we are up to 20."

Most people don't believe the stories told about the rumored paintings on the 60 to 90 ton rock located off Iowa's Highway 25 are even true.

"When they find out it's real, they want the story and a lot of people don't understand why I paint over it," he added. "But I paint over it just to keep it fresh and new and to keep people coming back."

Even though Sorensen and his wife, Maria, own their own art and photography studio, The Freedom Rock, is a ministry in itself.

"There are veterans that have come in that haven't even talked to their families," Sorensen said. "But they feel like they can talk to me, share their stories, share their struggles and what they went through over there that they never wanted to talk about.

I've always said I'll go as long as I can afford it. And with the help of a great community and a great country, everybody behind me, it's nice to know I should be able to keep doing it for as long as I can."

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