Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 21, 2018

HC last Iowa county to book Freedom Rock

Private efforts underway to make the project happen
Jul 11, 2018
Photo by: GTNS photo The Washington County Freedom Rock was recently unveiled during Brighton’s Whoopee Days. The mural shows a portrait of George Washington, a veteran and the county’s name sake. Beside the rock is a wreathe in commemoration of Sgt. Craig Rich who died while fighting in the jungles of Vietnam. Should Henry County commission a Freedom Rock, it would be the last county in Iowa to do so.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


Henry County will be the last county in Iowa to commission Ray “Bubba” Sorenson II to paint a Freedom Rock.

Sorenson painted the first Freedom Rock in 1999 on a large boulder in Greenfield as a “Thank you” to U.S. veterans. Since then, Sorensen has painted Freedom Rocks in over 70 counties — the most recent one unveiled in Brighton on June 16.

Henry County, however, is the last lonely white dot on the map of Iowa on freedomrock.com. Other counties have been colored red showing a Freedom Rock has been painted there or blue if they have booked Sorensen to paint a Freedom Rock.

While some Henry County residents like Steve Peiffer have implored county supervisors to take on the project, others have taken it upon themselves to raise money for the project, find a rock and nail down a location. In fact, just this week Art Tousignant, of Mt. Pleasant and Iowa State Representative for the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, sent contracts to Sorenson along with a $1,000 deposit for the project.

“I know that this county has a huge heart. I wouldn’t have moved back here if I thought our county sucked,” Tousignant said, who relocated from North Carolina a few years ago. “It’s always been a patriotic community. It’s always been a serving others community. Do I think this thing should have been done years ago? Of course I do, but it hasn’t been, so let’s move forward.”

Tousignant is part of a group, the third group in fact, of people in Henry County to attempt to raise support and money for the project. The first two groups did not succeed. Now, Tousignant is determined to do everything above board, even creating a nonprofit — the Henry County Patriot Rock Association — to keep track of donations. There is a bank account at Community 1st Credit Union, which holds the first $1,400 raised for the project.

Freedom Rock projects can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $250,000, Tousignant said. The cost includes paying Sorenson to paint the rock, the paint itself, any expenses incurred while Sorenson is staying in a city to paint a rock, and the location and the rock itself, which can cost from $5,000 to $20,000.

Some of these expenses aren’t a worry for Tousignant though, who has already secured three possible rocks that will be donated to the project and spoken with several businesses in Mt. Pleasant interested in having the rock on their property. He also has a trucking company willing to move the rock for free unless it needs to be transported over a bridge.

“These rocks range from the size of a small car up to one we certainly don’t want — it’s the size of a good-sized truck,” Tousignant said, adding that the bigger the rock the more it costs to paint also.

County supervisors aren’t so keen on the project, worried they will end up responsible for funding the project, finding a location and the upkeep of the rock.

During a visit from Mt. Pleasant resident Steve Peiffer during the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, July 10 regarding commissioning a Freedom Rock, supervisors questioned the purpose and noted that within the last five years Mt. Pleasant, New London and Salem have all finished veterans’ memorials.

To this, Tousignant looks at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., which is lined with memorials. “Is there one monument that takes away from another? (We’re) honoring those who chose that life of service and paid the ultimate price,” he said.

Tousignant, however, is not looking for county or city involvement, although it would be welcomed and that the rocks are eventually turned over to the local government.

Tousignant was not present at the supervisors meeting and is not aware of Peiffer’s efforts toward getting a Freedom Rock in Henry County. He said he welcomes anyone who wants to contribute to the project.

Tousignant hopes to make an official announcement mid-September once he has a signed contract from Sorenson regarding the location of the rock and start seriously fundraising for the project at that time.

While Sorenson will have the final say on the design of the rock, Tousignant said the county can contribute suggestions. This includes looking at significant veterans from or buried in Henry County and possibly including a tribute to them in the design. Tousignant mentioned a Revolutionary War soldier buried at Forest Grove Cemetery, three Medal of Honor winners from the county and Vietnam War veterans.

“You never want to be the last, but there are advantages,” Tousignant said. “We’re the capstone project. It needs to be tasteful, to have a certain humility.”

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