Stacy Stubbe and son Liam in Ackley on Wednesday.
ACKLEY, Ia. — Two years ago, boy scout Liam Stubbe, 17, of Ackley, decided he wanted to become an Eagle Scout and began looking for project to complete his application.
Sure, he could paint a house or build a few picnic tables, but Stubbe wanted to do something more substantial, something that would be in his beloved community for years to come.
“I didn’t want to do a small project that didn’t stick,” he said. “I wanted to do something that would have an impact, something I could bring my kids to.”
So, as teens these days do, he turned to social media and found the perfect task: a freedom rock.
On Tuesday, his project made its debut to thousands of RAGBRAI riders passing through Ackley. The culmination of two years of planning, fundraising and elbow grease, the 10-foot rock painted with various patriotic scenes was a popular selfie spot for bikers coming into town.
Ackley’s boulder is the 31st rock painted by “Freedom Rock” artist Ray “Bubba” Sorensen.
Sorensen started what he calls the “Freedom Rock Tour” in 1999 when he painted a then-graffiti-covered boulder with scenes of veterans for Memorial Day. Every May, he re-paints the rock with a new veterans tribute.
“I was raised patriotic,” Sorensen said in between posing for pictures with riders, “My uncle Ted did multiple tours in Vietnam and my mother always told me that he wasn’t treated well when he came back. I never forgot that, so I have a sort of soft spot for veterans.”
That “soft spot” only grew when in 1998 he saw the movie “Saving Private Ryan.”
“Watching those guys strom the beach at Normandy, I was moved,” he said. “I was thinking how lucky I am that being in this theater is the closet I have ever been to war. I decided not to serve, but I appreciate all those who do and this is my way of giving back.”
Sorensen is on a mission to put one rock in every county in Iowa, so from April to October, he criss-crosses the state trying to get as many done as he can . He’s booked 80-some counties, meaning his summers are planned through 2020.
Artist Ray Sorensen.
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