A 22-year-old former US Marine hired to fight against Russian forces in Ukraine was killed while fighting alongside Ukrainian troops this week, his family said.
Willy Joseph Cancel, a former US Marine, was working with a private military contracting company that paid him to fight against Russian forces attacking Ukraine when he was killed on Monday.
‘He wanted to go over because he believed in what Ukraine was fighting for, and he wanted to be 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,’ his mother, Rebecca Cabrera, told .
The 22-year-old flew to Poland on March 12 and crossed into Ukraine sometime between then and March 13.
He left behind his 23-year-old wife, Brittany Cancel, and their 7-month-old baby boy.
Brittany Cancel told how eager her husband was to volunteer when he first heard of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine.
‘He went there wanting to help people, he had always felt that that was his main mission in life,’ she said. ‘My husband was very brave and a hero.’
The former Marine worked as a corrections officer in Tennessee, but had dreams of someday becoming a police officer or firefighter, according to his wife.
‘I did not expect to be a widow at 23-years-old or for our son to be without a father,’ she said. ‘All I want is for him to come home, and to give him the proper burial he deserves.’
The circumstances surrounding his death were not immediately clear, and his body had not yet been recovered as of Friday morning, according to his mother.
‘They haven’t found his body,’ Cabrera 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.’
His mother and brother-in-law Devin Tietze Jr both described Cancel as someone who knew the right thing to do in his heart, and would step up even when no one else would.
‘He believed wholeheartedly this shouldn’t have happened and he wanted to go help the people in Ukraine,’ Tietze said to CNN.
The US State Department said in a statement that they are ‘aware of these reports and are closely monitoring the situation.’
‘Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment,’ the State Department said.
‘We once again reiterate 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, and that US citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately if it is safe to do so, using any commercial or other privately available ground transportation options.’
For more stories like this, .