Apr 29, 2022 - World

Former U.S. Marine killed while fighting with Ukrainian forces

A Ukrainian flag amid rubble.
Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images

Former U.S. Marine Willy Joseph Cancel was killed Monday while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces during Russia's invasion, his mother, Rebecca Cabrera, told CNN.

The big picture: Cancel, 22, is believed to be the first U.S. citizen killed while fighting in Ukraine.

  • The details of his death, including where he was in Ukraine at the time, have not been disclosed.

What they're saying: Cabrera said Cancel, at the time of his death, was working for a private military contracting company and that he agreed to be sent to Ukraine.

  • "He wanted to go over because he believed in what Ukraine was fighting for, and he wanted to be a part of it to contain it there so it didn’t come here, and that maybe our American soldiers wouldn't have to be involved in it," Cabrera told CNN in a phone interview.
  • She said he had worked as a correctional officer in a Tennessee prison before joining the private military contractor shortly before fighting began in Ukraine.
  • Cabrera said Cancel's body has not yet been recovered.
  • Cancel's widow, Brittany Cancel, confirmed to Fox News that he died and left behind a 7-month-old son.

The U.S. Department of State warned Americans in March to not travel to Ukraine to participate in the fighting.

  • "Importantly, U.S. citizens who travel to Ukraine, especially with the purpose of participating in fighting there, they face significant risks, including the very real risk of capture or death," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said then.
  • "The United States, as you know, is not able to provide assistance to evacuate U.S. citizens from Ukraine, including those Americans who may decide to travel to Ukraine to participate in the ongoing war," he added.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry told CNN in late March that more than 20,000 volunteers and veterans from 52 countries had expressed a desire to join Ukraine's "International Legion," a special combat unit created shortly after the start of the invasion.

  • Scott Sibley, a former British soldier, was also killed while fighting with Ukrainian forces, becoming the first confirmed British national to die in combat, according to the BBC.

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