It was a special moment when the Heroes Hall veterans museum was dedicated with a ceremony and ribbon cutting on Veterans Day at the OC Fair & Event Center (OCFEC) in Costa Mesa for 500 attendees. Special dignitaries, veterans groups and veterans and their families attended the free event, including Vincent Okamoto, the most decorated Japanese American veteran of the Vietnam War.
Approved by the OCFEC Board of Directors in 2014, Heroes Hall will encompass more than 12,000 square feet with indoor/outdoor exhibit space. Crews broke ground last March and the former “Memorial Gardens,” a two-story, 5,000 square foot WW II-era building, was placed on the site in April to house exhibitions. Crews have worked diligently on the building and the surrounding courtyard, which includes a 50-foot-wide centerpiece designed after the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. military decoration that is awarded by the U.S. Congress for gallantry and bravery in combat at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.
Heroes Hall, when it is completed in February, 2017, will be a permanent, year-round museum with exhibitions, performances and educational programs that celebrate the legacy of Orange County veterans and others who have served our great nation. The two-story exhibition space will rotate themes semi-annually with each theme focusing on an aspect of the personal stories and experiences of the veterans.
The SAAAB Story
The OC Fair & Event Center sits on land that was once part of the Santa Ana Army Air Base during World War II. This second-floor exhibit will tell the story of veterans, former SAAAB residents and celebrities Joe DiMaggio, Gene Autry, Joseph Heller and Don the Beachcomber, in addition to special units that were active on the station or were significant during the war, including the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, Chinese National Air Force Detachment, Tuskegee Airmen, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Navajo Code Talkers.
“The Things They Carried”
Based on and named for the book by Tim O’Brien, the first-floor exhibit will feature stories about Vietnam War veterans as told through text, photography, film, audio, digital media, art and personal items. Additional narratives and objects will be included from Orange County veterans from World War II up to current military involvement in the Middle East.
Approximately 100,000 school children will tour the museum each year. The purpose of their visits will be to teach them the most important lesson of their lifetime–”Freedom Isn’t Free.” In addition to the school children, more than one million visitors are expected to the museum every year.
The Heroes Hall Veterans Foundation, a 501©3 non-profit, provides fundraising support for exhibitions, education, programs and operation. Information about how to become involved and make a contribution is available at OCHeroesHall.org
Heroes Hall is at the OC Fair & Event Center, which is located at the 405 and 55 Freeways at 88 Fair Drive in Costa Mesa. Visit OCFair.com/HeroesHall for more information.