honored more than 80 veterans and dozens of family members of U.S. service men and women at its annual Veterans Day assembly Thursday.
North High students and staff with loved ones deployed spoke to the challenges and sacrifices in a video played during the assembly. “You’re so used to having a dad,” one student said. “You realize how much you need him.”
Students and staff can also take part in a letter and care package drive at North next week. You can donate hygiene items, clothing and entertainment. Letters and care packages will be sent to those serving around the world and those at Hines Hospital.
Patch talked with two veterans at North. Read each of their stories below.
Mizener attended Downers Grove High School. He played for the first DG football team to win a state championship.
Mizener would have graduated in 1944. In 1943, he was drafted and chose to go into the Marine Corps.
He traveled around the world three times, he said, chasing German prisoners and fighting the Japanese.
Mizener returned in July 1946 and became an eye doctor in Downers Grove. He also drafted vision standards for driving required by Illinois. His practice, Naper Grove Vision Care, is still in existence.
His three children, Mark, Allison and Curtis, all attended Downers Grove North, as well.
Mizener said his teal jacket was a gift from his son, Mark Mizener, who knows four languages, is involved in movies and art and “has a lot of imagination,” Floyd Mizener said.
Curtis is the city manager of Hinsdale.
Mizener said the students needed to learn to become good Americans.
“They need to understand why this is such a good nation and we have to defend it,” he said. “They can’t just expect it to happen.”
Villarreal has been in the Army reserves since 1997.
“I go to the point where I needed to do something with my life,” he said. He was attracted to the Army because of its discipline, direction, work ethic and honor, he said.
Villarreal has been deployed twice to Kuwait and Iraq, once in 2006 and again in 2010. His second deployment was cut short as the U.S. withdrew its troops.
“We were the last ones to come out,” he said. “It was a historic moment.”
Jessica Villarreal, a DGN junior, is Manuel’s cousin.
“My dad was always watching the news to make sure (Manuel was) safe,” Jessica Villarreal said. “Sometimes we would all gather together and talk about how proud we were of him and how we couldn’t wait to see him.”
Manuel Villarreal is now a full-state student working on a degree in psychology. He wants to be a combat stress counselor and work at a VA hospital.
His message to the DGN students:
“Freedoms are not free,” he said. “You have to be grateful for what you have, like water. A warm, clean bed. The ability to speak your mind.”