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Former U.S. Marine Willy Joseph Cancel killed in Ukraine, family confirms

Former U.S. Marine Willy Joseph Cancel killed in Ukraine, family confirms
Relatives and friends attend the funeral ceremony on April 18 for Ukrainian Ruslan Nechyporenko, who was killed on March 17 by Russian soldiers in the recaptured city of Bucha. Willey Joseph Cancel, a former Marine fighting with Ukraine, was killed in battle there, his family said Friday. Photo by Vladyslav Musiienko/UPI | License Photo

April 29 (UPI) -- The family of former U.S. Marine and corrections officer Willy Joseph Cancel confirmed Friday he was killed in Ukraine while fighting with their military against Russia.

Cancel, 22, was contracted with a private military firm when he agreed to travel to Ukraine and fight against Russian troops when they invaded Ukraine, his mother, Rebecca Cabrera, said.

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"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.

Brittany Cancel, his wife, said her husband was working as a detention officer in Kentucky before traveling to Ukraine. She said he wanted to become a police officer or a firefighter.

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"I did not expect to be a widow at 23 years old or for our son to be without a father," Brittany Cancel told ABC News, who added that they had a 7-month-old son. "All I want is for him to come home, and to give him the proper burial he deserves.

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"He went there wanting to help people, he had always felt that that was his main mission in life. My husband was very brave and a hero."

Cabrera said Cancel joined the fight with soldiers from "all different countries." She said she was told that his body had not been able to be retrieved.

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"They haven't found his body," Cabrera said. "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."

A State Department official said they were "aware of these reports and are closely monitoring the situation. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment.

"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."

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Earlier this month, the family of British man Aidan Aslin said he was captured in Mariupol while fighting with Ukrainian forces there.

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