Design for the new Heroes Hall exhibit at the OC Fair & Event Center
Design for the new Heroes Hall exhibit at the OC Fair & Event Center Credit: OC Fair & Event Center

Heroes Hall Veterans Museum “Through the Eyes of Veterans” at the OC Fair & Event Center inaugurated its official groundbreaking on March 16, featuring Orange County veterans from World War II, Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan.

What better way to kickoff telling the stories of Orange County veterans as part of the educational programs offered at the OC Fair and Event Center and a great opportunity for the community to see and hear from those that we will be celebrating in the museum with their stories. Heroes Hall is dedicated to the contributions and sacrifices of Orange County veterans.

Representing the different wars will be, World War II veteran Bob Friend a Tuskegee Airman; Korean War Chosen Reservoir veteran Bob Dugan; Vietnam War Veteran Pastor Frank Orzio; Desert Storm Veteran Doug Wooley; Iraq War veteran and Navy Cross recipient Marco Martinez; and Afghanistan War veteran Claudia Acosta.

Dave Hayward, a cadet at the Santa Ana Army Air Base in 1942, will be in attendance.

The fairgrounds themselves are steeped in military history.  During World War II, the land was part of the 1,300-acre Santa Ana Army Air Base, a major training ground for pilots in the war.

About 128,000 pilots, navigators and bomb aimers graduated from training at the base, according to the Costa Mesa Historical Society.

It also served as an exit point for returning service members, with over 72,000 combat returnees processed there in the mid-1940s, according to the historical society.

The Board of Directors of the OC Fair & Event Center voted unanimously to allocate $3.8 million toward the Heroes Hall project. These funds will be used to preserve the building, construct the surrounding grounds and install initial exhibits. In addition, the Heroes Hall Veterans Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, was formed to conduct fundraising activities and process donations from the public for the ongoing programming and operation of Heroes Hall. For more information about the project, visit

The finished exhibit will feature 4,800 square feet of exhibit, office and archival space on over 12,000 square feet of land which will include veteran’s memorials, plaques, gardens and an outdoor mini-amphitheatre. Guests will be able to access Heroes Hall both from the OC Fair & Event Center parking lot and from inside the OC Fair.

With Heroes Hall, finally veterans will have a “home” for our stories to be told and passed down in one of the most imaginative and interactive ways possible.

What a fitting testament and tribute to Heroes Hall and our Orange County veterans, being represented at this groundbreaking by 6 of our brave warriors, who epitomize the spirit, passion and purpose of Heroes Hall.

Bobby McDonald, United States Navy Vietnam Veteran, Orange County Veterans Advisory Council Chair and Heroes Hall Veterans Foundation Member

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at

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