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A True Memorial Day

An Iowa muralist turns a rock into a patriotic landmark

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A gravel pit on Route 25 in rural Adair County, IA, could be easily indistinguishable from any other locale in rural America. The behemoth rock that marked the pit’s entrance had been marred by graffiti and short-lived, slapdash murals for several years until Ray “Bubba” Sorensen, who graduated from Iowa St. University with a bachelor’s degree in art and design, decided it should serve a better purpose.

In 1999, he commemorated Memorial Day by painting a mural in honor of the sacrifices made by U.S. soldiers during past wars. Though he’s never served in the military, Sorensen deeply admires the selflessness of the sacrifices they make protecting our country.

On every subsequent Memorial Day, Sorensen has visited the rock and created a new tribute. In 2001, he depicted the Pearl Harbor bombing in conjunction with its 60th anniversary; in subsequent years, he’s emphasized America’s post-9/11 resolve and the military’s efforts in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

This year, he created a multifaceted tribute. The north side remains a salute to Vietnam veterans that depicts Washington’s Vietnam memorial (several deceased veterans’ ashes have been spread across the rock’s base at the request of the late soldiers’ families); the east side’s artwork celebrates Medal or Honor winners from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; and the south side honors those wounded or disabled throughout the history of U.S. military conflicts.

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