By BILL SHEA
Every day, hundreds of vehicles pass by a boulder that marks one of the western gateways to Fort Dodge.
The process of turning that stone into a tribute to America's military and its veterans, which began last year, continues. In 2016, the boulder will become the Webster County version of the Freedom Rock, complete with a patriotic paint job by artist Ralph Sorensen II, who created Iowa's original Freedom Rock near Menlo.
In about three weeks, a new 30-foot tall flagpole will be erected at the site near Second Avenue South and A Street, according to John Enderlin, the Fort Dodge man leading the project.
Also, the area has been labeled the Westside Trail Head by the city government. A bench and a sign that has a map on one side and historical information about western Fort Dodge and the Freedom Rock on the other has been placed there.
''It's all falling into place,'' Enderlin said.
The stone, which weighs 10 to 12 tons, was put in place during June 2013 by McGough Construction Co.
''It will be seen by thousands of people each day,'' Enderlin said.
The most recent work at the site occurred in late July when Enderlin and other volunteers built a concrete base for the new flagpole. Mark Hagar, the owner of Mark of Integrity Construction, of Fort Dodge, donated his labor and all the needed supplies. He was assisted by Mike Kloberdanz, Larry Prewitt and Enderlin.
After the new flagpole is up, the 20-foot-tall one now in place will be taken down.
Enderlin said that three flags have already been donated for use at the Freedom Rock site. One of them, he said, flew over an Army hospital in Iraq and the other two were used in Afghanistan.
Next year, a sidewalk and a parking lot will be built.
Sorensen is scheduled to paint the rock in 2016.
Exactly what images will be painted on the rock have yet to be determined. Enderlin said he wants men and women from all branches of the armed forces to be represented. He said he'd also like disabled and homeless veterans to be included in the painting. Tributes to Darrell Lindsey, a Fort Dodge Senior High School graduate who posthumously received the Medal of Honor after his World War II bomber was shot down, and Terry Griffey, a St. Edmond High School graduate who died when his plane was downed during the Vietnam War, might also be included in the artwork.
Iowa's first Freedom Rock was created in 1999 when Sorensen painted a boulder to thank veterans for their service. It is repainted every year with new images.
Last year, Sorensen began an effort to place a Freedom Rock in all 99 Iowa counties. In the Fort Dodge region, he has already painted rocks in Rolfe in Pocahontas County and Sac City in Sac County.
In addition to the Fort Dodge rock, others are planned for Calhoun, Humboldt, Kossuth, Palo Alto and Wright counties.
Although the Freedom Rock in Adair County is repainted every year, those in other counties will not be repainted.