The Spirit of Liberty Foundation’s America’s Freedom Bell — an innovative, touring memorial — honors United States armed forces, past, present and future, and has already been seen and rung by more than 2 million people since its casting on June 6, 2013, the 69th anniversary of D-Day.
The bell, manufactured by the nation’s premier bell foundry, The Verdin Company, was unveiled on Flag Day, June 14, 2013, at Independence Hall, Philadelphia.
That same year, the bell was placed on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Midway in San Diego and traveled to Honolulu as part of the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
Embossed with the official emblems of each branch of the U.S. Armed forces, its lip has 50 stars representing each state and contains metal from the 9/11 Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, certified by the New York Fire Commissioner.
The bell is a symbol that has listened to the stories of Americans all across the nation, said Daniel Rakers, director of public relations and events for the Spirit of Liberty Foundation, which sponsors the bell project.
“Everyone has their own story to tell and everyone has their own emotional connection with the bell, whether that be to ring it in honor of a friend or family member who has passed away in service or whether they have a daughter or son who is currently serving,” said Rakers.
People often salute the bell before the ring it, then say the name of the person they are ringing the bell for. Others are quieter, said Raker. “They have their own inside monologue of the person they are remembering.”
Richard Rovsek, a Rancho Santa Fe resident, is the founder of the Spirit of Liberty Foundation and the creator of the America’s Freedom Bell.
On May 15, 2013, Rovsek had his innovative idea to create a bell that would recognize and honor U.S. armed forces and drew his graphic concept on a napkin.
Quickly the idea blossomed into reality, and within a couple of weeks he had the bell cast, said Raker.
The bell was present at Washington, D.C.’s National Mall during this year’s Memorial Day weekend in remembrance of World War II veterans.
“People would just stop and take pictures and ask us what the story is behind the bell and if they could ring it,” said Raker. “Richard is a very patriotic person and wants to recognize everyone who has served or will continue to serve in the future.”
When the bell memorial travels from event to event, the public is invited to ring the bell, along with dignitaries and high ranking officials. Each one rings the bell in honor of someone, to remember them in a special way.
There are a lot of children whose parents bring them to ring the bell, said Angela Holas, administrator for The Spirit of Liberty Foundation.
“On occasions you might get someone whose husband is actually being deployed again. They are both very upset, but very glad to release their emotions and say it out loud,” Holas said.
It is a cathartic release when the bell is rung — it is very emotional, said Rakers: “Both heartwarming and heart-wrenching.”
Often people have lost more than one person, said Holas, and they ring the bell several times to remember all of them as they say goodbye.
The bell will be a major part of Flag Day celebrations in Philadelphia. On June 14, it will be in a place of prominence at the entrance of Independence Hall.
The date represents the bell’s second birthday and the 240th birthday of the U.S. Army. There will be birthday cake to celebrate both dates and an official toast, with VIP dignitaries, for all those who served.
A skydiving team will unfurl huge American flags on the lawn of Independence Hall, with the bell being part of the official ceremony as well as the post-ceremony at Christ Church.
“Richard Rovsek has larger-than-life ideas, and we help bring them to life,” said Raker. “Even though we are a small foundation, what we do is huge.”
In the years ahead, the foundation aims to connect with millions of people through a national tour for the bell.
“Everyone that we have spoken to embraces this story,” said Raker.