The Bravery of Willy Joseph Cancel: Marine who died fighting Russians leaves behind wife and baby son
Willy Joseph Cancel, a former U.S. Marine, lost his life while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces after he was sent to war by the private security firm he worked for.
The devastated family of 22-year-old Cancel of Orange County, New York confirmed that the father-of-one was killed in Ukraine fighting Russian forces on Monday, April 25. The soldier is survived by his wife Brittany, who he married in July 2019, and their seven-month-old son Anthony. Cancel's mother Rebecca Cabrera said her son was working for a private military contracting company that offered him a job to fight in Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion in February.
"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. The circumstances of Cancel's death are still unclear at the time of publication, but his mother said those fighting alongside him weren't able to retrieve his body during the conflict. "They haven't found his body," she said. "They are trying, the men that were with him, but it was either grab his body or get killed, but we would love for him to come back to us."
Former US Marine Willy Joseph Cancel, 22, is killed fighting In Ukraine as a private security contractor from New York. He leaves behind a wife and seven-month old boy. pic.twitter.com/2kNjUhFBU0— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) April 29, 2022
"My husband did die in Ukraine," widow Brittany told Fox News. "He went there wanting to help people, he had always felt that that was his main mission in life...My husband was very brave and a hero. I did not expect to be a widow at 23 years old or for our son to be without a father. All I want is for him to come home, and to give him the proper burial he deserves," she added.
According to the family, Cancel was working as a corrections officer in Tennessee when he flew to Poland on March 12 and crossed into war-torn Ukraine. His mother told CNN that her son was joined by fighters from "all different countries" to help Ukrainian troops win the war. "It was something that he believed in his heart, that was the right thing," Cabrera said. "He was the type of man who always stepped up when everybody else stepped back, and there were a lot of men who were like that that were with him." Devin Tietze, Cancel's brother-in-law, agreed with Cabrera, saying he was the "type to fight for what's right regardless of the outcome." Tietze told CNN, "He believed wholeheartedly this shouldn't have happened and he wanted to go help the people in Ukraine."
BREAKING:— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) April 29, 2022
The former U.S. Marine, 22-year-old Willy Joseph Cancel, is the first American to have been killed fighting for Ukraine.
He leaves behind a wife and 7-month-old daughter.
Rest In Peace. Ukraine will not forget your sacrifice!
The State Department has said they are aware of the reports of Cancel's demise but weren't able to comment at this time due to privacy concerns. Nonetheless, the department reiterated in a statement that US citizens shouldn't travel to Ukraine due to the ongoing conflict. "US citizens should not travel to Ukraine due to the active armed conflict and the singling out of US citizens in Ukraine by Russian government security officials," the statement read, "And US citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately if it is safe to do so, using any commercial or other privately available ground transportation options."
That said, it's unclear how many U.S. citizens are actively assisting Ukrainian forces on the front lines. According to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, more than 20,000 volunteer veterans from 52 countries have joined the fight. The Ukrainian government has created a special International Legion to manage the influx of foreign fighters, many of whom are visiting veterans allied with the country.