Saturday, May 30, 2020

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour

Our family loves a good road trip and one of our family's traditions is to visit the different county Iowa Freedom Rocks across the state.  By the end of 2020, all 99 counties will have unique painted murals, showcasing local heroes and stories honoring area veterans painted by Iowa artist Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II.  Here is a look at all of the county Freedom Rocks located in North Central Iowa.

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - the perfect family road trip

Grundy County Freedom Rock, 104 E Grundy Ave, Conrad, Iowa

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Grundy County Freedom Rock, Conrad, Iowa

The Grundy County Freedom Rock is located in Gier Park in Conrad, Iowa and is set in the middle of a nice memorial space.  The front of the rock celebrates Grundy County's title as the "Black Dirt Capitol of the World" and shows three WWII era soldiers and a Rosie Riveter image walking out of a corn field. Back in WWII and still today, a large percentage of farm family men and women serve in our military and I loved how this paid respect to this sector of Iowans.

The back of the rock has a painting of a B-29 bomber named "The City of Grundy Center", which was named after pilot Lt. Harold Leffler's home town of nearby Grundy Center, Iowa and an eagle holding the 40 & 8 logo, with the American flag draped over the top.  Near the rock is a nice seating area in memoriam of a local couple and a patriotic shelter house with picnic tables.

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Grundy County Freedom Rock, Conrad, Iowa

Hardin County Freedom Rock, 517 Main St., Ackley, Iowa

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Hardin County Freedom Rock, Ackley, Iowa

The Hardin County Freedom Rock is located on Main Street in Ackley, Iowa and is part of a beautiful Veterans Memorial.  The front of the rock shows an impactful image of a WWII Veteran visiting the cemetery in Normandy and is based on a Hardin County Veteran who parachuted into Normandy and lost a good friend.  Also on the rock is a painting of the USS Indianapolis, a Purple Heart and a POW/MIA flag.  All of these elements have ties to Hardin County soldiers and veterans.

And if you're hungry on your road trip I have to add that Sky Kone Ice Cream is located nearby.  You can't miss it - it's the giant ice cream cone around the corner from the Freedom Rock.

Hamilton County Freedom Rock, 830 Shakespeare Ave., Stratford, Iowa

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Hamilton County Freedom Rock, Stratford, Iowa

The Hamilton County Freedom Rock is located in a corner lot in Stratford, Iowa and focuses on the Generations of Service of men and women from the Hamilton County area.  The Veterans Memorial surrounding the rock shares the dates of all United States Military Conflicts and there are veteran's names on all of the yellow plaques surrounding the rock, including one for my brother-in-law.  Something unique about this rock is that it sits off the ground in a metal cradle.  That was one of the first things our kids noticed.

Featured on the rock is Hamilton County native Lt. Maurice Esters who was part of the Tuskegee Airmen.  We will have to come back to visit the Hamilton County Freedom Rock again at night to see it all lit up!

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Hamilton County Freedom Rock, Stratford, Iowa

Webster County Freedom Rock, 129 A St, Fort Dodge, Iowa

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Webster County Freedom Rock, Fort Dodge, Iowa

The Webster County Freedom Rock is easy to access located near the Karl King Bridge and just off Hwy 169 in Fort Dodge.  The side of the rock that made the biggest impact to my family and I is shown above, dedicated to those suffering from PTSD and its side effects.  All of our kids noticed the homeless Vietnam Veteran and this allowed us to have a conversation about the battles that returning military members have faced over the years and that we need to show all of our veterans and soldiers compassion and mercy.

On the other side of the rock two local Fort Dodge veterans, aviators and medal recipients are featured.  Captain Darrell Lindsey received the Congressional Medal of Honor for leading an air bombing run through occupied France.  During the formation his plane received heavy enemy fire but he remained cool and in control, completed the bridge bombing and made sure all other men on his aircraft were able to parachute safely out of the B-26.  Lindsey was unable to escape safely before the aircraft exploded.  Willis Moeller earned the Distinguished Flying Cross at the Battle of Kagoshima Bay as a result of rescuing a downed pilot.

There is also a painting in tribute to the Fort Dodge Dragoons (mounted infantry) and features Dr. Bill Ryan who was a founding member of the group.  You can follow the Dragoon Trail which follows the path of the 1st US Dragoons who scouted Iowa in 1835 throughout Webster County.

Another neat note about this rock is that ashes of 24 veterans were in the paint used on the flag that drapes across the top of the rock.

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Webster County Freedom Rock, Fort Dodge, Iowa
Humboldt County Freedom Rock, 400 4th Ave, Livermore, Iowa

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Humboldt County Freedom Rock, Livermore, Iowa

The Humboldt County Freedom Rock is located in Livermore, Iowa and is in the center of a big flag display.  The front of the rock shows respect to the medical personnel in the armed forces through the years.  Then as you move around the rock you see a painting of a soldier handing candy and c-rations to Vietnamese children while on patrol during the Vietnam War and then area Vietnam Veteran, Lance Corporal Jerry Hatcher is featured.  Hatcher gave his life in honor of our country and received three purple hearts during his service.

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Humboldt County Freedom Rock, Livermore, Iowa



Wright County Freedom Rock, 296 E Ellsworth St, Dows, Iowa

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Wright County Freedom Rock, Dows, Iowa

The Wright County Freedom Rock is located in Dows, Iowa and is the first Freedom Rock we ever visited due to its proximity to our home and that it was finished five years ago.  The front of the rock seen above has a painting of a Civil War Union soldier and a present day serviceman.  The back is dedicated to Vietnam Veterans and has the words "For those veterans who never heard it, Welcome Home" written on it.  The rock is all apart of a very nice Veterans Memorial.

The Wright County Freedom Rock is also located close to the Dows Historic District that includes the Iowa Welcome Center & Rock Island Depot, Vernon Schoolhouse #5, Blacksmith Shop Museum, Mercantile Building and Evans Prairie Home.

Franklin County Freedom Rock, 22 Barrett St, Coulter, Iowa

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Franklin County Freedom Rock, Hampton, Iowa

The Franklin County Freedom Rock is located on the North-side of Coulter, Iowa and is close to both I-35 and Highway 3.  This rock has been especially neat for my family because it is in our home county, is only about five miles away from our home, and we've been able to watch the whole process of going through the application, placing the rock, painting the rock and making improvements and additions to the area surrounding the Freedom Rock.

Located at the trailhead of the Rolling Prairie Trail, the Franklin County Freedom Rock features a couple local connections and pays honor to couple other groups.  Seen above, the east side of the rock shows the G.A.R Hall located in Franklin County's county seat, Hampton, Iowa.  This historic octagonal-style building includes a statue of a Union soldier on top and was the first G.A.R Memorial Hall in Iowa and today is the only building built to honor Civil War soldiers west of the Mississippi River.  On the Freedom Rock, artist Sorenson included ghosts of Civil War soldiers floating in the clouds above the building.

The next local connection is a portrait of Admiral William Daniel Leahy who was born in Hampton.  Leahy was a senior American naval officer who served during World War II.  He traveled home to Hampton on D-Day, June 6, 1944 as part of a well-publicized "sentimental journey" to deceit German agents in the United States into believing that the Allied invasion of Europe would not happen while such an important officer was gone.

The rock also honors the work of service dogs and their handlers, as well as the American Legion riders active in the area and that had a hand in helping with the rock.  Lastly, on the west side of the rock, facing the Coulter Cemetery, there is a soldier holding a folded flag in honor of all of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, including my husband's uncle who passed away in Vietnam.

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Franklin County Freedom Rock, Hampton, Iowa
Butler County Freedom Rock, 198 Hwy C13, Greene, Iowa

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Butler County Freedom Rock, Greene, Iowa

The Butler County Freedom Rock is in Greene, Iowa and sits next to the Shell Rock River that runs through town.  The front of the rock, seen above, honors Veterans from different eras and includes a ship in the background.  On the backside of the rock is a painting of Greene native, Robert "Bob" Neal who was apart of The Flyer Tigers, a group of pilots that had the mission in WWII of defending China against Japanese forces.

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Butler County Freedom Rock, Greene, Iowa

Floyd County Freedom Rock, 812 Main Ave, Rockford, Iowa

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Floyd County Freedom Rock, Rockford, Iowa

The Floyd County Freedom Rock is located in Central Park in Rockford, Iowa.  This rock features every branch of the military and includes four local veterans.  On the front side seen above is the bulldog/devil dog and Semper Fi representing the Marines and local veteran Ed Trettin who served in the Coast Guard during WWII.  He was one of the top gunners on the USS Ingham and saw combat on a regular basis in the North Atlantic versus German u-boats and submarines.

Moving around the rock next is Floyd County native and Medal of Honor recipient Paul Riordan representing the Army.  He served during WWII and showed exemplary bravery and heroism during the attack on the city of Cassino, Italy.  Then on the final side is Captain Timmie Ward representing the Air Force and Jon (JT) Tomilson representing the Navy, both from Rockford.  Ward was killed in action while serving in Vietnam.  Tomilson was a Navy SEAL and died while serving in Afghanistan.

At Central Park, our children also enjoyed checking out the 1918 Band Stand, old jail cell, fountain and War Memorial. The Rockford Fossil & Prairie Park is also close by.

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Floyd County Freedom Rock, Rockford, Iowa
Cerro Gordo County Freedom Rock, 2 N 8th St, Clear Lake, Iowa

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Cerro Gordo County Freedom Rock, Clear Lake, Iowa

The Cerro Gordo County Freedom Rock sits at the the east end of downtown Clear Lake and shares the story of Henry Smith who grew up in Cerro Gordo County and fought in the Civil War.  Smith received the Medal of Honor for jumping into a river in North Carolina to save one of his soldiers who had fallen in and was drowning while under fire from Confederate soldiers.  This story is also depicted on the rock.  The other side is a beautiful painting of an eagle soaring over a Clear Lake sunset.

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Cerro Gordo County Freedom Rock, Clear Lake, Iowa

Hancock County Freedom Rock, 2nd St SW, Britt, Iowa

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Hancock County Freedom Rock, Britt, Iowa

The Hancock County Freedom Rock is located in the town's Veterans Park.  The rock has the county's namesake John Hancock and his famous signature painted on the front.  On the back is a painting of a soldier kneeling and the phrase "For Those Who Gave All".  The city of Britt has done a nice job creating this Veterans Park space and our family enjoyed checking out all of the statues, flags and plants.

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Hancock County Freedom Rock, Britt, Iowa

Kossuth County Freedom Rock, 601 Broad St, Whittemore, Iowa

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Kossuth County Freedom Rock, Whittemore, Iowa

The Kossuth County Freedom Rock is found in a beautiful and well kept space in Whittemore.  The front of the rock shares the image of Iwo Jima and a quote from Winston Churchill "Never was so much owed by so many to so few."  On the backside is a touching image in honor of Gold Star Mothers with a mother being handed a folded flag at a cemetery.  The rock is placed inside a purple heart ribbon sidewalk.  The local American Legion has done a beautiful job with their purple landscaping and attention to detail in the space.

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Kossuth County Freedom Rock, Whittemore, Iowa

Winnebago County Freedom Rock, 198 N Mill St, Lake Mills, Iowa

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Winnebago County Freedom Rock, Lake Mills, Iowa

The Winnebago County Freedom Rock display in Lake Mills is an eye catcher with its enormous flag display, several statues and tank that are all included in the town's Arlington Park.  The front of the rock show a couple soldiers carrying a wounded brother off the battlefield and in the background is a silhouette of the flag raising.

The north side of the rock shows Iowa and the United State's longest serving Governor and Winnebago County native, Terry Brandstad who was drafted in the Army where he served in the military police.  On the east side of the rock is a painting of "Mr. Tank" Brig General Joseph Colby who born in Lake Mills and designed tanks such as the Grant, Lee, M-4 Sherman, Chaffee, Walker, Bulldog, Hellcat, Pershing and Patton.  There is a Sherman Tank that also sits in Arlington Park in honor of him.

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Winnebago County Freedom Rock, Lake Mills, Iowa

Worth County Freedom Rock, 300 Willow St, Kensett, Iowa

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Worth County Freedom Rock, Kensett, Iowa

The Worth County Freedom Rock is located in the town of Kensett.  On one side of the rock is a powerful image of a soldier behind bars representing the Prisoners of Wars & those Missing in Action and behind him are faintly the letter POW MIA.  Then on the other side is the story of Elk Creek Church in rural Kensett who started a newsletter, The Elk Creek Herald, as a way to communicate and keep in touch with those serving overseas during WWII.  This rock tugged on my heartstrings more than any other in North Central Iowa.

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Worth County Freedom Rock, Kensett, Iowa

Mitchell County Freedom Rock, US 218 & Hwy 9 Junction, St. Ansgar, Iowa

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Mitchell County Freedom Rock, St. Ansgar, Iowa

The Mitchel County Freedom Rock is located in St. Ansgar and helped start the Iowa Freedom Rock Tour as the second county rock painted after the original located in Adair County.  On one side you see the message Thank You Veterans and on the other side is an American Flag Heart which all of our kids thought was really neat.  There is also the logo of the Sons of the American Legion, whose St. Ansgar chapter was instrumental on getting the county Freedom Rock and starting a Veterans Memorial Park where the rock sits.

North Central Iowa Freedom Rock Tour - Mitchell County Freedom Rock, St. Ansgar, Iowa
Visiting theses Freedom Rocks, along with the others across the state is a great way to teach your children about the price of freedom, learn Iowa history and explore the state of Iowa.  We love how each rock has a local connection and you can see the thought and time put into each design.  It is also nice that most rocks are in towns off the beaten path and help you visit somewhere new.  For a complete guide to all of the county Freedom Rocks, check out this checklist.  Have you seen any of the Iowa Freedom Rocks?  Which one is your favorite?

3 comments:

  1. I love everything about this. What a great learning experience for your kids as well.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Carlee. I love how our kids get excited to see new ones and learn something new!

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