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Veterans Rock

If you’ve been to Wilson Park over the last few months, you may have noticed a new boulder. It’s not just any old rock, it’s a very special rock with a very special meaning. It was placed there with a lot of intention and as a result of a lot of hard work by a new group in St. Cloud, aptly named - Veterans Rock.

Veterans Rock is a non-profit organization whose mission is to honor past, present, and future members of the United States military. So where did the Veterans Rock and this idea come from? It started with inspiration from Veterans Rock President Caroline Stringer.

“I am from St. Cloud, but my family is originally from Iowa, which ties into how Veterans Rock came to be. A few years ago, my uncle told me about the Freedom Rocks in Iowa, which are boulders painted with patriotic images, and we visited the one in my family's hometown. I was so impressed with the art and its meaning that my mom and I decided to visit several more. In December of 2022, while I was interning under Nick Johnston (our current Treasurer) - he is the founder of St. Cloud StandDown and an Army veteran himself- I sent him some pictures of Freedom Rocks and asked him if he had ever heard of them. Five minutes later, I received an email back.”

“I had heard of Freedom Rocks, but had never seen one in person,” Nick shared. “I told Caroline I’d like to see one in each county in Minnesota. I suggested we talk with Bob Behrens. Bob is the President of St. Cloud StandDown and now our Veterans Rock Vice President. I knew Bob had visited several rocks and so that same day Caroline approached Bob and told him we needed to get a rock in St. Cloud.”

St. Cloud Veterans RockBob was thrilled. “Getting a Freedom Rock in St. Cloud was on my bucket list,” he said. “I wanted Caroline to be the President of the project; I also suggested we consider getting a Veteran to do the actual painting.”

They had their first meeting a few weeks later and the three Veterans on the committee supported the idea of not only getting a rock in this area but that Veterans should be the painters, too. Caroline’s background is in art, so that was a great start. “I was part of a collaborative mural in a painting class in college, so I presented the idea of having one member from each branch of the military contribute to the monument. This project's goal is to be inclusive and honor all past, present, and future military members. We are huge fans of Freedom Rocks, but once I saw how passionate the other committee members were about giving this opportunity to their fellow brothers and sisters, I was sold on the idea. We have a few ideas of things we would like to see depicted on the monument, but we can't wait to see what the artists come up with!” Caroline explained.

The St. Cloud Veterans Rock committee is still in the process of bringing their project to life. “We’re working on securing more sponsors, but we’ve been so blessed to work with some great businesses in the area to help with the construction. Rock on Trucks, Inc. donated the 13.25-ton granite boulder that we are using for the monument. Kevin from Rock on Trucks invited us to check out some of the boulders on their property, and when he told us that he had one in mind, Bob and I knew that we had found the perfect rock as soon as we saw it. They then transported the rock to Wilson Park in their amazing 101st Airborne-themed truck, which was really touching. They went above and beyond and let me ride along in the truck to transport it to the site and stayed for hours, even when it started to lightly rain, to help us place it on the concrete pad. Chad from Concrete, Inc. poured the pad and Tommy from Rau's Trucking helped with the placement of the rock and cementing it to the base. Joe and his team at Andy's Towing volunteered their time and equipment to place the boulder on the pad with their rotator. We have also partnered with Tom at Rex Granite to supply paver monuments that will line the pathway to the rock to honor service members. In addition, we have worked with Mayor Kleis and Scott from St. Cloud Parks and Recreation. Heather at Digital Printing Plus, Inc. has handled all of our printing needs, and we are just constantly amazed at the generosity of all of these businesses and organizations who are so supportive of our vision.”

“Of course, every step of the project has been exciting in its own way, but I think the committee would agree that the most exciting parts have been placing the boulder in Wilson Park last October and searching for artists. It has been amazing to see this idea that we had on paper come to life. We are all super excited to choose artists and work with them to see their vision for the monument. Another highlight will definitely be our dedication ceremony once the project is completed. We can't wait to see the final monument and to showcase the talent of the Veterans in our community.”

Veterans Rock Call for ArtistsIf your business or organization is interested in getting involved, the Veteran’s Rock committee would love to chat. “We’re happy to present to companies who would like to learn more about how they can get involved with  Veterans Rock. We do plan to recognize top sponsors with plaques on-site. In addition to sponsorships, we’re selling memorial pavers to honor loved ones. They’re slanted granite slabs - so they won’t be walked on - which will help with longevity.”

“One of the challenging aspects of this project has been building everything from the ground up. We've put a lot of time into developing a mission, values, marketing materials, and so much more to really get this project off the ground. A current challenge is finding artists from the branches with fewer members, like the Coast Guard and Space Force. We knew finding someone from the Space Force could be a stretch, but our backup plan is to have a member of the Air Force create artwork that is symbolic of the Space Force. We haven't given up yet, though. We hope that someone knows a Guardian who would be willing to paint the rock!”

“We’ve put hundreds of hours of work into this project over the last year, and all of it has been voluntary. None of us benefit financially in any way from this project. Our entire committee volunteers their time at St. Cloud StandDown, a non-profit that helps Veterans who are in need, at risk, or homeless. I got involved with StandDown last year thanks to Nick, and I loved the people there so much that I decided to stay involved and help out where I could. We are on this committee because we want to honor all Veterans who have served, and we are looking forward to having this monument in Wilson Park for many years to come.”

“One thing that we keep repeating is how fortunate we are to be in a community that is very supportive of this project. We have been very blessed with assistance from area businesses and organizations as well as people who are very eager to support our Veterans. What makes this project special is that most of the people involved are Veterans themselves. It is amazing to get to partner with business and community leaders who have served in the military as well.”

The Veterans Rock committee is actively looking for a Veteran from each branch of the military - Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard - to contribute to the painting of a mural on a granite boulder in Wilson Park in St. Cloud. If you or someone you know is interested in the opportunity you can submit your application online by Friday, March 1, 2024. 

“One of the best ways to support us is to follow our Facebook page; this is where we post updates on our progress. We appreciate everyone helping us get the word out about our search for artists and the pavers we have for sale. We hope to see community members at our dedication ceremony next fall (details to come, on Facebook). In the meantime, if anyone has questions, we can be contacted at”