Defense

Marine vet killed fighting alongside Ukrainians: report

An American citizen and former Marine was killed earlier this week while fighting alongside Ukrainian troops in Ukraine, CNN reported Friday. 

Willy Joseph Cancel, 22, was killed Monday in Ukraine, his mother, Rebecca Cabrera, told CNN. He was working for a private military contractor that had sent him to the country, she said. 

A State Department spokesperson told The Hill the agency is “aware of these reports and are closely monitoring the situation.” 

“Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment,” they said in a statement. “We once again reiterate U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine due to the active armed conflict and the singling out of U.S. citizens in Ukraine by Russian government security officials, and that U.S. citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately if it is safe to do so using any commercial or other privately available ground transportation options.” 

Cabrera said her son was a corrections officer in Tennessee when he signed up to work for the private military contracting company shortly before the war in Ukraine began on Feb. 24. The company was looking for contractors to fight in Ukraine, she said.

“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.

Cancel flew to Poland on March 12, crossed into Ukraine sometime over March 12 and 13, and joined a group of men who were from “all different countries,” his mother said. 

Cabrera said those who notified her of Cancel’s death said that his body had not been found. 

A senior U.S. defense official later told reporters that the Pentagon does not have any information on the individual killed as there’s no way of tracking Americans that have entered Ukraine to fight. 

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, we understand from press reports that he was married and had a young child,” the official told reporters. 

“That’s just horrible, horrible news for any family to get. The Department of Defense sends its deepest condolences to his family and his loved ones.” 

The official added that the Pentagon continues to urge Americans not to go to Ukraine. 

“This is not the place, not the time for Americans to travel to Ukraine, no matter how altruistic they may be,” the official said.  

“What we would encourage Americans to do is contribute to any number of non-governmental and nonprofit organizations that are trying to contribute to humanitarian assistance.”  

Tags Marine Russia-Ukraine conflict Ukraine

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