The Richard I. Bong World War II Heritage Center opened its doors to a lot of fanfare Sept. 24, 2002.
Now, 15 years later, the name and mission have changed somewhat, but there's still cause for celebration.
The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, 305 Harbor View Parkway, is inviting the public to join in a celebration, Beers and Cheers, 6-8 p.m. Oct. 5.
"Although our mission and name have changed slightly, we have always been dedicated to honoring, preserving and interpreting veterans' stories — not just from the Twin Ports area but the larger Northland area," said Hayes Scriven, the center's executive director.
The center's original mission was to preserve and honor the memory of Maj. Richard I. Bong, a Poplar native and fighter pilot who earned the Medal of Honor and title America's Ace of Aces with 40 kills in World War II. He and all veterans of World War II were the focus of the center. Now the mission has expanded to include other conflicts and veterans, and provide educational resources for the Twin Ports area community and beyond.
"We are truly an inclusive veteran's center," said Terry Lundberg, chairman of the center's board of directors and one of its founding members. "It was important for us to get the center open so we could not only have a place to memorialize one of our nation's top heroes but all veterans' stories."
Plans include opening a World War I trench display in the spring.
Since the center opened, it has gathered more than 600 oral histories, added 10,000 items to its collection and memorialized more than 2,100 veterans. The center has hosted many programs, events and exhibits over the years.
"We have big plans for the next few years," Scriven said. "I want the public to know that they can come to our programs and feel welcome here, veterans have played an important role in the development of this area, people need to know that and be proud of it."
The tasting features beers from Blacklist Artisan Ales, Bent Paddle Brewing Co. and Castle Danger Brewing. Wine is provided by Murphy Goode in coordination with Keyport Liquor.
The wine and beer tasting is free, but donations are appreciated.