OSKALOOSA— The Mahaska County Freedom Rock has taken several years to finish but the final piece was just completed this June.
The Rock is a permanent memorial honoring all past, present, and future veterans of Mahaska County. It weighs 23,620 pounds and is approximately 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide.
Some of the final touches, including a story board telling about the project as well as stone pillars lining the walkway to the Freedom Rock, each with emblems of each branch of service. A formal dedication has not yet been announced.
The American Legion Auxiliary started this project back in 2014. The whole process got started when Kathy Harding, a member of the Harry L. Anderson Unit 34 American Legion Auxiliary, commented at a meeting that she thought the Auxiliary should pursue getting a rock in Mahaska County, and that got the ball rolling.
The Freedom Rock originally came from Sioux Falls, S.D. It was donated by Ben Shinn in Eddyville and transported and placed on site by Bills & Rays in Oskaloosa. The rock was placed on site on July 14, 2015.
The site of the Freedom Rock was donated to the MCCB by Harold “Heck” and Marie Caldwell. Heck Caldwell was a WWII Veteran so it only seemed fitting that the rock should be there.
Kim Dixon, the chair of the Freedom Rock committee, says it means the world to her to honor veterans.
“They have [sacrificed] and still do sacrifice so much for our country to be free. For me it is special because it is honoring the history of our veterans and preserving memories and history for Mahaska County,” she said.
Some of the visitor's reactions Dixon has encountered while they were visiting the Freedom Rock have been that they were very impressed by the area.
“I know that I am biased but I think that we have one of the nicest ones around. It was neat to be able to honor a female veteran, Billie Davis, on the rock," she said, "and very cool to see that for such a small county we have had a lot of Generals in service to our county that came from here or resided here.”
The artist Ray “Bubba” Sorenson started painting on November 3, 2015, and finished on November 12, 2015. He finished four years before the projected date of 2019.
Dixon shared some of the meanings behind the art.
On the south side of the rock are faces of seven generals. The artist was researching the veteran stories of Mahaska County and he found it interesting that there was such leadership from our county.
The north side is dedicated to the First Cav's involvement in the liberating of POWs from Manilla. Known as the Battle of Manilla (1945) it was a one month battle, which was a bloodbath that devastated the entire city. It was some of the worst fighting in the Pacific Theater and ended almost three years of Japanese military occupation in the Philippines. Harold Caldwell was a member of the First Cav. and was the owner of the land the rock is located on.
The east side is “The Bugler.” Harry L. Anderson is who the American Legion is named for in Oskaloosa. He was killed by a German sniper while he was carrying orders and mail from his commanding officer to a post office in the front line in March 1918 (WWI).
The west side features “WAC.” Theresa “Billie” Davis was Oskaloosa's first member of the WAAC or Women's Army Auxiliary Corps/The Women's Army Corp – the women's branch of the Army. It was created in 1942, converted to full status in 1943, and disbanded in 1978.
That's not even all of the paintings on the rock. If you want to go check out this incredible memorial rock, it is located at 2348 Hwy. 92 E., Oskaloosa.