Reports: Marine Corps Veteran Killed Fighting Alongside Ukrainian Forces

April 29, 2022Hannah Ray Lambert
marine corps Ukrainian

Marine Corps veteran Willy Joseph Cancel leaves behind a wife and 7-month-old son. Photo courtesy of Brittany Cancel/Facebook, via the New York Post.

A Marine Corps veteran was killed Monday, April 25, while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces in Ukraine, according to news reports. Willy Joseph Cancel, 22, is believed to be the first US citizen killed while fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukrainians against the Russian invasion.

Cancel worked full time as a corrections officer in Tennessee. But when the invasion began, a private military contracting company was looking for people to join the fight, and Cancel volunteered to go, Cancel’s mother, Rebecca Cabrera, told CNN.

“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 and crossed into western Ukraine.

marine corps Ukrainian
Marine Corps veteran Willy Joseph Cancel died Monday, April 25, 2022, while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces against invading Russian troops, according to his family. Photo courtesy of Willy Cancel/Facebook.

As of March 6, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry estimated that some 20,000 foreigners from more than 50 countries had applied to fight for Ukraine. The Ukrainian military categorizes foreign volunteers into three groups: those with military backgrounds and combat experience, those with military backgrounds and no combat experience, and those without any military backgrounds.

Cabrera told CNN the group of men Cancel fought alongside were from “all different countries.” The exact circumstances of his death were not immediately clear, but Cabrera said she was told her son’s body had not been found yet.

“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,” Cabrera said.

Cancel leaves behind a wife and 7-month-old baby.

“My husband was very brave and a hero,” Brittany Cancel told Fox News. “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.”

Brittany Cancel said her husband had dreams and aspirations of being a police officer or firefighter.

“My husband was very brave and a hero,” 23-year-old Brittany Cancel says. Photo courtesy of Willy Cancel/Facebook.

While Cancel appears to be the first American killed while actively fighting against the Russian invasion, other American citizens have died or been injured in the conflict.

Brent Renaud, a journalist and award-winning filmmaker, was shot and killed March 13 at a checkpoint outside Kyiv. James Whitney Hill, 67, was killed during an attack on a bread line March 17 in Chernihiv. And Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall was grievously injured March 14 when Russian troops opened fire on a car he was traveling in. Fox cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, a French citizen, and Oleksandra Kuvshynova, a Ukrainian journalist, died in the same incident.

Friday, a senior defense official was asked by reporters about Cancel’s death. While the defense official did not directly confirm the Marine Corps veteran had been killed, the official said the Defense Department continues to urge Americans to not go to Ukraine.

“It is an active war zone,” the defense official said. “This is not the place, not the time for Americans to travel the Ukraine, no matter how altruistic they may be. I’d encourage Americans to contribute to any number of nongovernmental & nonprofit organizations that are trying to contribute to humanitarian assistance. The Red Cross is a great example if you want to help Ukraine as a private citizen, that’s the best way to do that.”

This story has been updated to include a statement from an official from the Department of Defense.

Read Next: Two Americans, Both Former Army, Wounded by Artillery in Ukraine Combat

Hannah Ray Lambert
Hannah Ray Lambert

Hannah Ray Lambert is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die who previously covered everything from murder trials to high school trap shooting teams. She spent several months getting tear gassed during the 2020-2021 civil unrest in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not working, Hannah enjoys hiking, reading, and talking about authors and books on her podcast Between Lewis and Lovecraft.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
Coffee Or Die Photo
From the Team Room to Team Room Design: An Operator’s Creative Journey

BRCC partners with Team Room Design for an exclusive T-shirt release!

Coffee Or Die Photo
Get Your Viking On: The Exclusive 30 Sec Out BRCC Shirt Club Design

Thirty Seconds Out has partnered with BRCC for an exclusive shirt design invoking the God of Winter.

Grizzly Forge BRCC shirt
Limited Edition: Grizzly Forge Blades on an Awesome BRCC Shirt

Lucas O'Hara of Grizzly Forge has teamed up with BRCC for a badass, exclusive Shirt Club T-shirt design featuring his most popular knife and tiomahawk.

BRCC Limited Edition Josh Raulerson Blackbeard Skull Shirt
From Naval Service to Creative Canvas: BRCC Veteran Artist Josh Raulerson

Coffee or Die sits down with one of the graphic designers behind Black Rifle Coffee's signature look and vibe.

Medal of Honor is held up.
Biden Will Award Medal of Honor to Army Helicopter Pilot Who Rescued Soldiers in Vietnam Firefight

Biden will award the Medal of Honor to a Vietnam War Army helicopter pilot who risked his life to save a reconnaissance team from almost certain death.

dear jack mandaville
Dear Jack: Which Historic Battle Would You Want To Witness?

Ever wonder how much Jack Mandaville would f*ck sh*t up if he went back in time? The American Revolution didn't even see him coming.

west point time capsule
West Point Time Capsule Yields Centuries-Old Coins

A nearly 200-year-old West Point time capsule that at first appeared to yield little more than dust contains hidden treasure, the US Military Academy said.

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
Contact Us
© 2024 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved