Heroes Hall veterans museum welcomes the public at grand opening

Heroes Hall, a veterans museum some four years in the making at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, had its public grand opening Wednesday.

Heroes Hall is a former Santa Ana Army Air Base barracks that was slated for demolition in 2013. But after veterans and preservationists lobbied the Fair Board, the building was saved, moved from its longtime home where the fairgrounds' Plaza Pacifica is today and renovated to house the museum.

The grand opening coincides with the 75th anniversary of the air base's activation.

Outside the 4,800-square-foot building — formerly called the Memorial Gardens Building because it was named after a since-removed veterans memorial garden — is a courtyard containing a large star based on the Congressional Medal of Honor. Around the star is the Walk of Honor, which includes plaques honoring Orange County service members who received top military honors.

Heroes Hall will be used as an educational center for 11th-grade history curriculum, and students from Costa Mesa High School were among the first guests Wednesday.

For the next few months, the first floor of Heroes Hall will feature an exhibit based on the Vietnam War book "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien. It also contains wartime memorabilia on loan and looping video footage from the 2013 Los Angeles Times stories "Healing Sgt. Warren" and "A Soldier's Wife."

The second level has a permanent exhibit on the air base and other topics, such as the Tuskegee Airmen, Navajo code talkers and the Women's Army Corps. Later, it also will contain a "story room" where veterans can record videos about their experiences for an archive.

Heroes Hall generally is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. It will be closed on state holidays and have different operating hours during the Orange County Fair from July 14 to Aug. 13.

Museum admission is free.

For more information, visit ocfair.com/heroeshall, email heroeshall@ocfair.com or call (714) 708-1501.

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