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For the first time, a coordinated effort to recognize veterans brought recognition to African-American veterans at Suber Memorial Gardens, the 130-plus-year-old Lake Helen cemetery still in use that is wedged between massive development to the west and Interstate 4 to the east.

Wreaths Across America coordinates simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies nationwide. Thirty-two veterans are buried at Suber Memorial, including survivors of World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Organized by Lake Helen resident Todd Preston, the ceremony took place at noon Dec. 15. Wreaths were also placed at the Lake Helen-Cassadaga Cemetery on Kicklighter Road later that day.

“I thought it was fantastic,” said Sharon Johnson, whose father is among the veterans buried at Suber. “It was great, and it should be continued.”

Johnson’s father, Warren Leonard Williams, was a veteran of both the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

“All of the Korea tours, and Vietnam, he was deployed — oh, countless times,” Johnson said.

Injured by enemy gunfire in the Vietnam War, Williams retired with the rank of master sergeant. He then attended the University of Central Florida, and graduated with a degree in criminal justice, with a minor in wastewater treatment.

“He worked at the T.G. Lee dairy factory at night and went to school during the day,” Johnson said. “My dad was a great man. Very inspirational.”

Williams died in 2006 and was buried at Suber Memorial.

His grave was decorated with one of the living wreaths donated through the Wreaths Across America organization.

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