Relatives: Former US Marine Killed in Action in Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — A 22-year-old former U.S. Marine has died alongside Ukrainian forces in the war with Russia, his relatives told the media in the first known death of an American citizen fighting in Ukraine.

Willy Joseph Cancel was killed Monday while working for a military contracting company that sent him to Ukraine, his mother, Rebecca Cabrera, told CNN. Cancel had recently worked as a corrections officer in Tennessee and had previously served in the Marine Corps from 2017-21, joining the service the same year he graduated from high school.

Cabrera said her son had signed up to work with the private military contractor shortly before the fighting in Ukraine began on February 24. She told CNN that he agreed to go to Ukraine.

“I wanted to go because I believed in what Ukraine was fighting for, and I wanted to be a part of that to contain it there from coming here, and that maybe our American soldiers wouldn’t have to be involved. in it,” he said.

Cabrera said her son’s body has not been found.

“They haven’t found his body,” he said. “They are trying, the men who were with him, but they either grabbed his body or they killed him, but we would love for him to come back to us.”

Willy Cancel is shown in his Navy uniform in this photo released by his family.
Willy Cancel is shown in his Navy uniform in this photo released by his family.(Source: Rebecca Cabrera/CNN)

She said her son flew to Poland on March 12 and entered the Ukraine shortly after. She said that she was fighting alongside men from various countries.

Cancel also served as a volunteer firefighter in New York and leaves behind a 7-month-old son, according to an online fundraising page set up by a man who identifies as his father. His wife received the call informing her of his death on Tuesday, the page said. The father wrote that Cancel made the decision in early March to go to Ukraine because he wanted to defend innocent people.

Cancel graduated from Newburgh Free Academy in New York in 2017, the school district said.

Cancel worked at a private prison in Tennessee from May 2021 through January, said Matthew Davio, a spokesman for private prison company CoreCivic. The Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, a medium security facility, is located about an hour northeast of Nashville.

“As a correctional officer, Mr. Cancel served his state and his community by helping maintain a safe environment where inmates can participate in life-changing re-entry programs. We are grateful for his service and saddened by the loss of him,” Davio said in a statement.

President Joe Biden on Thursday asked Congress for a $33 billion supplemental funding bill. (CNN/AZOV REGIMENT VIA TELEGRAM/POOL)

While in the Marine Corps, Cancel served as a rifleman and was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was discharged for misconduct after he was found guilty of violating a general statutory order, Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Jim Stenger said.

It had no deployments to war zones, Stenger said. No other details about the misconduct conviction were provided.

The United States has not confirmed reports of Cancel’s death. On Friday, the State Department said it was aware of the reports and was “closely monitoring the situation” but could not comment further “due to privacy considerations.”

“We reiterate once again that US citizens should not travel to Ukraine due to the active armed conflict and the targeting of US citizens in Ukraine by Russian government security officials, and that US citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately if necessary. safe to do so using any commercial or private ground transportation option available,” the State Department said.

Cancel’s widow, Brittany Cancel, told Fox News that he leaves behind a young son and that she views her husband as a hero.

“My husband died in the Ukraine,” said Brittany Cancel. “He went there wanting to help people, he had always felt that was his main mission in life.”

She said her husband volunteered to go to Ukraine, but also aspired to become a police officer or a firefighter.

“He had dreams and aspirations to be a police officer or join the FDNY,” he told Fox. “Naturally, when he heard about what was happening in Ukraine, he was eager to volunteer.”

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians are believed to have died in the war. Other US non-combatants have been killed, including a documentary filmmaker killed when his vehicle was fired upon at a checkpoint and a man killed while waiting in line for bread.


AP diplomatic writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Leave a Comment