On Monday, a 22 years old former US Marine, Willy Joseph Cancel lost his life in Ukraine whilst fighting alongside the Ukrainian forces against the Russian military. According to Fox News, he is the first US citizen who got killed while defending Ukraine.
Cancel has left behind a newly wedded wife with a seven-month old baby. His wife, Brittany Cancel, said that he always wanted to help people that is why he went to Ukraine as he believed it was his true calling in life. She claimed Cancel is a hero and he was a fearless person, but she never expected to be a widow at such a young age or for her son to grow up without a father.
Cancel’s mother, Rebecca Cabrera, said that her son Cancel sacrificed his life because he believed in the struggle of the Ukrainians. She stated that Cancel felt he should also be a part of their struggle and help contain the crisis there so it doesn’t come to the US. Cabrera also said that Cancel was a courageous man who was always willing to step up even when everybody else was hesitant.
Fox News reported that he served as a correctional officer in Kentucky and aspired to join the FDNY or the police someday. When he heard about Ukraine, he was eager to volunteer and did so through a private military contracting company.
Cancel was flown to Poland on March 12th and traveled to Ukraine the following day. He was fighting alongside troops who belonged to various countries, according to Cabrera. The soldiers fighting alongside him confirmed his death. She added that they haven’t recovered his body yet.
The family wants his body to be brought back to the US, where he can be given a proper burial.
On Friday, while talking with NBC News, a State Department official said that they were well aware of the situation and were monitoring it. He stated there are no further comments because of privacy considerations and urged US citizens to not go to Ukraine. He also said any US citizens currently in Ukraine should urgently leave if it’s safe and come back to the US.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has formed a special unit where foreign fighters and volunteers can apply. The special unit is known as the International Legion and has over 20,000 volunteers from 52 different countries, according to a CNN report from March 7.