Young American Father Killed Fighting in Ukraine

Willy Joseph Cancel of Tennessee is believed to be the first US battle casualty
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 29, 2022 8:58 AM CDT
American Killed Fighting in Ukraine
Ukrainian soldiers examine Russian multiple missiles abandoned by Russian troops when they retreated after recent fights in the village of Berezivka, Ukraine, on Apr. 21, 2022.   (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A Marine veteran and father to a 7-month-old child appears to be the first US citizen killed while fighting on behalf of Ukraine, reports Fox News. Willy Joseph Cancel, 22, was killed on Monday, mother Rebecca Cabrera tells CNN, though no details were available on how or where he was killed. Cancel was a corrections officer in Tennessee who signed up to work for a private military contracting company shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, says his mother. When the company sought soldiers for Ukraine, Cancel agreed to go.

"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," Cabrera tells CNN. She says he flew to Poland on March 12 and entered Ukraine soon after. He was fighting alongside men from "all different countries," she says, adding that they were unable to recover his body because it was too dangerous. The State Department says it is aware of the reports and is "closely monitoring the situation" but did not further elaborate—beyond reiterating its recommendation that US citizens not travel to Ukraine.

Cancel was the "type to fight for what's right regardless of the outcome," brother-in-law Devin Tietze Jr. tells CNN, noting that the native of New York's Orange County leaves behind a wife and 7-month-old child in Tennessee. "I did not expect to be a widow at 23 years old or for our son to be without a father," widow Brittany Cancel tells Fox. "All I want is for him to come home, and to give him the proper burial he deserves." (More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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