Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 23, 2018

Washington County’s Freedom Rock unveiled

Jun 18, 2018

By Gretchen Teske, The JOURNAL


BRIGHTON - Ray “Bubba” Harris spent all week in Brighton, working on the Washington County Freedom Rock. On Saturday, June 16, over 50 people gathered to see his hard work pay off. The 13-ton rock took him less than a week to complete and honors members of the community, including Vietnam vet and Brighton native, Sgt. Craig Rich.

Rich’s brother Ron drove over eight hours from Springdale, Ariz., to see the honor. “I wouldn’t have missed it,” he said. “I think it’s really wonderful what the community has done. They never forgot about him.”

Sgt. Rich’s sister Barb Riepe, of Fairfield, also attended the special ceremony where a wreath was hung in his honor next to the rock. When Riepe first heard the news, she was happy to hear it would honor all veterans and pay a special tribute to her brother. “I thought it was awesome for Craig to be one of the one’s,” she said.

Washington County Veteran Affairs Coordinator Sue Rich opened the ceremony with the pledge of allegiance before addressing the crowd. “Regardless if they fought in the battles of WWII, Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, the deserts of Afghan or Iraq, or if they never left the United States, they did what their country asked them to do, and we thank them.” she said.

The Freedom Rock features George Washington on the front, a tribute to Sgt. Rich on one side, a tribute to Ding Darling on the other and the back features purple heart medals and revolutionary war soldiers to compliment the patriotic history of Brighton.

Harris then addressed the crowd and explained his motivation for choosing the murals. “It being Washington County, I thought it would be a great way to honor our first president and one of our first veterans,” he explained. He then told the crowd he chose to paint Ding Darling’s famous Roosevelt cartoon because of the artistic value, the value Darling has in Iowa and Roosevelt’s veteran status. “I thought the way he portrayed Roosevelt was amazing, and also Teddy Roosevelt was a veteran,” he said.

The purple heart medal is a representation of the multiple purple heart recipients in the county and the Sgt. Rich portrait a tribute to one of Brighton’s own. On the top of the rock is an American flag, which Harris painted as a tribute. “For me, that represents not only all veterans, but all Americans, because we’re all in this together,” he said.

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