A US Navy veteran has died while fighting alongside Ukrainian troops in the war with Russia, his relatives told news outlets in the first known death of a US citizen fighting in† Rebecca Cabrera told CNN that her son, Willy Joseph Cancel, 22, was murdered Monday while working for a military contracting company that sent him to Ukraine.
Cabrera said her son worked as a district attorney in Tennessee and signed up to work with the private military contractor shortly before the fighting started in Ukraine in late February. She told CNN that he agreed to go to Ukraine.
“He wanted to go there because he believed in what Ukraine was fighting for, and he wanted to be a part of it to contain it there, so it wouldn’t come here, and maybe our American soldiers wouldn’t have to get involved in it.” “, she said.
Cabrera said her son’s body has not been found.
“They didn’t find his body,” she said. “They’re trying, the men who were with him, but it was either grabbing his body or getting killed, but we’d like him to come back to us.”
She said her son flew to Poland on March 12 and entered Ukraine shortly after. She said he fought alongside men from different countries.
The US has not confirmed the reports.
In a statement to CBS News, a State Department spokesperson said: “We are aware of these reports and are monitoring the situation closely. Due to privacy concerns, we have no further comment. We reiterate that US citizens do not Ukraine may travel due to the active armed conflict and the handing out of U.S. citizens in Ukraine by Russian government security officials, and that U.S. citizens in Ukraine must leave immediately if it is safe to do so using commercial or other privately available ground transportation options .”
Cancel’s widow, Brittany Cancel, told Fox News that he is leaving behind a young son and that she sees her husband as a hero.
“My husband died in Ukraine,” said Brittany Cancel. “He went there to help people. He had always felt that was his most important mission in life.”
She said that her husband wanted to go to Ukraine voluntarily, but also had the ambition to become a police officer or firefighter.
She said that “he had dreams and ambitions to become a police officer or join FDNY.”
“My husband was very brave and a hero,” Cancel told Fox News. “I didn’t expect to be a widow at 23 or our son to be fatherless. I just want him to come home and give him the proper burial he deserves.”