You may have been stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, or perhaps you were there for Basic Training or Advanced Individual Training. Chances are good that if you've ever spent any time in the area, you have visited Freedom Rock®, though you may have been unaware of it's name or history. This is the story behind this famous rock, the man who so lovingly painted it, the line of decorated boulders and a Mayor's vision that started it all.
Giving thanks and paying tribute to our fallen men and women on Memorial Day has been a tradition in America since originating during the Civil War. Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II began a journey of patriotic expression for our nation's fallen heroes in 1999 when he painted a simple "Thank You" on a boulder in rural Iowa. Ray continued to honor veterans with new murals on this boulder every May for Memorial Day.
Ray owns a mural painting business and hoped his tribute would bring tourism and recognition to the area. He expanded on his original works in Iowa and has created murals in Washington, North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri. Freedom Rocks® are also scheduled in the near future for Oklahoma, Ohio, and Texas.
The first Freedom Rock® in Missouri is located at 100 Franklin Street in Maryville, MO. The second Freedom Rock® is at 2400 County Park in Cape Girardeau, MO. The third, and last, Missouri Freedom Rock® is at 209 St. Robert Blvd. in a heavily commercial area of St. Robert, MO. On the face, this boulder depicts Medal of Honor Recipient General Leonard Wood, the Rough Rider era, a representation from Basic Training with a Drill Sergeant and a soldier; on the side is a battle cross and tribute to our fallen soldiers; and on back, a soaring P-51 Mustang, "The Spirit of Pulaski County" along with head coverings from each branch of service.
St. Robert Mayor George Lauritson had a vision early in the 2000's to bring unity to Fort Leonard Wood and the surrounding community. Recognizing the strong military presence both active and retired was paramount to this unity, he began by placing the tanks we are all familiar with throughout the city. He also had a vision of a "Military Rock Art Park" that would display crests and symbols to recognize the units attached at Ft. Leonard Wood.
When the art park was in place in St. Robert, a city alderman was reminded of the Freedom Rock® he had seen once in Iowa. Through City Council, Ray Bubba Sorensen II was commissioned to bring the third Missouri boulder to life. While many of the Freedom Rocks® use a granite slab, Sorensen stated that Saint Robert’s porous limestone Freedom Rock® created challenges that gave it a different look than some of the ones that he has previously painted. The project was completed in late August 2017.
Read more about the individual boulders painted by soldiers in the Military Rock Art Park from Pulaski County Tourism.