JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A neighborhood man made the greatest sacrifice for Ukraine.
Edward Wilton III, who was 22 years old, died about a month ago. He had joined the Ukrainian military on his own and fought there. He went to school in the Jacksonville area, and his family will bury him in Mandarin on Thursday.
Wilton grew up in Florida, including Orange Park, but his family is from Ukraine.
“My son Edward liked to try new things. He served in the army and was a good guy. “Honest person,” said Edward Wilton II, the boy’s father.
Edward Wilton II thinks of his son with love.
He said, “He’s been interested in the military ever since he was born.”
A little more than a year ago, when he was just 21 years old, he followed his desire and joined the Ukrainian military to fight Russian attackers.
“He wanted to go protect his ancestors and his legacy, so he said, ‘These are my ancestors. “It’s where my ancestors came from,” Edward Wilton II said.
“Several family members tried very hard to talk him out of it and would get angry with him when he didn’t listen. But I saw it as his dream and what he loved to do. I think he was happy, and he was.”
His grandma grew up in the United States in a Ukrainian family and taught him how things were done.
Edward Wilton III didn’t say much about the safety of everyone, but his family said that he worked with the special forces and was in a lot of fights. He had been hit by shrapnel a few weeks before he died.
His father said that they talked right before he died.
“And he did a video call, which was unusual,” said Edward Wilton II. “We talked for about an hour. Even though it was a strange talk, we really lived.
He thanked me for a lot of different things. We talked, and it was the kind of wonderful chat between a father and a son that, you know, every parent hopes for.
At the end, you could hear something moving in the background, and someone said, “Come on,” and he said, “I’ve got to go.”
The Embassy was the next caller. Officials said that a lot of gun fire was what killed him.
His father said that after he was shot and before he died, he talked about his favorite team, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“He was a fan of the Jaguars. On the field, I talked to some of his friends. “You know, they told me some details about how he died,” Wilton said. “It took place at night.
So they talked to him, and he made fun of them. And he started making fun of, I think, the team boss for the way he played football. The head of the group then said, “Well, what about you? You like the Jaguars.’
His answer was, “The Jacksonville Jaguars will win the Super Bowl.” Trevor Lawrence is great.’ And those might have been his last words, because he died not long after that.”
Later, the head of the Ukrainian army sent him a letter praising his “courage, valor, and patriotism.”
“Absolutely a hero in Ukraine,” Edward Wilton II said. “And that’s what Ukrainians call him when they talk about him: hero of Ukraine.”
After a month, his body is back home, and his family and friends are getting ready to say goodbye to a young man who gave his life for a cause he believed in.
On Thursday, Edward will be laid to rest at St. Joseph’s Historic Catholic Church in Mandarin. The event begins at 10 a.m. Everyone is welcome, according to his father.
Even though Americans aren’t banned from going to Ukraine, the Department of State still recommends that Americans don’t go there because of the war.