Marine veteran who died fighting in Ukraine was a volunteer, not a private contractor, say his fellow fighters

Ukrainian servicemen ride on an armoured personnel carrier (APC) as they make their way along a highway on the outskirts of Kryvyi Rih on April 28, 2022, amid Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine.
Reports of Willy Joseph Cancel’s death first emerged on April 29.

  • The Marine veteran who died fighting in Ukraine was a volunteer, said his teammates.
  • Reports of 22-year-old Willy Joseph Cancel’s death in the war first emerged on April 29.
  • Earlier reports cited Cancel’s mother saying that he was a private military contractor.

Willy Joseph Cancel, the 22-year-old US Marine veteran who was killed while fighting the Russians in Ukraine, was a volunteer and not a private contractor, two of his fellow fighters told The Washington Post.

Earlier reports had cited the Cancel’s mother as saying that her son was a private military contractor in the war. He is believed to the be the first American fighter to have been killed in the Ukraine conflict.

Cancel had joined Ukraine’s International Legion of Territory Defense and worked in a team that included four other Americans, according to his teammate Cameron Van Camp, 31, who spoke to The Post.

Van Camp, who is from Ellensburg, Washington, told The Post that foreign fighters in the legion were supposed to be paid by Ukraine. He claimed, however, that Cancel had funded his own flight to Poland as part of his route to Ukraine and didn’t receive any pay before his death.

Another of Cancel’s teammates, who was kept anonymous by The Post, also said that Cancel was a volunteer. 

An earlier report from CNN cited Cancel’s mother saying that he had opted to traveled to Ukraine under a private military contracting company. She said he had signed up with the company on top of his full-time job as a corrections officer in Tennessee.

According to The Post, Cancel and his squad fought alongside Ukrainian troops in a suburb of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. He also saw battle around Kherson, and Mykoliav — two cities in the country’s south that have seen some of the war’s fiercest battles.

Van Camp said he and Cancel would spend their downtime burying dead civilians and tidying up some of the homes pillaged by Russian troops, The Post reported.

“We just didn’t want people, if they were going to come home, to come home to that,” Van Camp told the outlet. “It was all their birth certificates, like baby photos, ultrasound photos, all of that stuff was just on the ground, thrown around, in trash cans.”

Cancel’s squad declined to comment on where and how he died, or about the status of his remains, The Post reported.

A Marine Corps spokesperson told The Post that Cancel joined the Marines in 2017 as an infantry rifleman and left the service after being court-martialed in 2020. The outlet cited an unnamed person familiar with the matter, who said that Cancel was court-martialed after bringing a weapon to a base.

The Marine Corps did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

The exact number of foreign fighters who joined the Ukrainian military is currently unknown. However, a Ukrainian official told CNN in early March that more than 20,000 people from more than 50 countries had joined the country’s foreign legion.

Cancel is survived by his wife and seven-month-old son.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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