‘He Believed In What Ukraine Was Fighting For’: American Citizen Killed While Fighting Russia, Family Says
Ukrainian army servicemen and Territorial Defense Force units take cover behind military armored vehicles as they advance to the battlefield to fight against Russian army in Lukâyanivka frontline, eastern of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 28th, 2022
Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

An American citizen and former Marine died while fighting Russia in Ukraine, his family confirmed to multiple media outlets Friday. 

Willy Cancel, 22, worked for a private military contractor and agreed to join Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression. Cancel was killed on Monday, his mother Rebecca Cabrera told CNN. 

Cancel’s widow also confirmed her husband’s death to Fox News. “My husband did die in Ukraine,” Brittany Cancel said. “He went there wanting to help people, he had always felt that that was his main mission in life.”

According to Fox News, Cancel, who could be the first American to die while fighting in Ukraine, also leaves behind a 7-month-old son.

“My husband was very brave and a hero,” Brittany said. “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.”

According to his family, Cancel was a former Marine and wanted to become a police officer or firefighter for the FDNY but was affected by what he saw going on in Ukraine. “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 said.

While Cancel could be the first American to die fighting the Russians in Ukraine, he was not the first American to die in the conflict. Journalist and former New York Times contributor Brent Renaud was killed by Russian forces outside of Kyiv in March.

The Daily Wire reported that Renaud was in Ukraine during the war “to film refugees as they attempted to flee their wartorn cities.” Renaud was an award-winning documentary filmmaker who traveled the world to highlight human suffering. The 50-year-old journalist was shot in a suburb of Kyiv. 

The New York Times said Renaud was not reporting for the outlet in Ukraine, but the newspaper released a statement remembering Renaud’s talent and work. 

“We are deeply saddened to hear of Brent Renaud’s death. Brent was a talented filmmaker who had contributed to The New York Times over the years. Though he had contributed to The Times in the past (most recently in 2015), he was not on assignment for any desk at The Times in Ukraine. Early reports that he worked for Times circulated because he was wearing a Times press badge that had been issued for an assignment many years ago.”

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