As CBS2’s Nick Caloway reports, he’s believed to be the first American killed while fighting in the war.
Relatives say Willy Joseph Cancel was killed fighting alongside Ukrainian forces.
The 22-year-old Marine veteran joined the conflict in March, reportedly working for a military contracting company that sent him to Ukraine.
He leaves behind a wife and 7-month-old son.
Cancel’s widow, Brittany, told CBS News she sees her husband as a hero.
“He didn’t go over there for money or any personal reason. He just, he wants to help the innocent people of Ukraine. That’s all he wanted to do,” she said.
Willy Cancel grew up in Orange County, New York, and graduated from Newburgh Free Academy. Before joining the Marines, Cancel was an active member of the Walden Fire Department.
After serving his country, he was a corrections officer in Tennessee.
“A family is mourning, a wife is mourning, and our hearts are with them,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
Psaki said Americans should not travel to Ukraine for any reason.
“We know people want to help, but we do encourage Americans to find other ways to do so rather than traveling to… rather than traveling to Ukraine to fight there. It is a war zone,” she said.
The death of an American comes as Ukrainians face a surge of attacks across the country.
Russian airstrike bombarded Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, during the U.N. Secretary General’s visit. The Kremlin said the target was a missile factory.
A journalist with the U.S.-funded “Radio Free Europe” was killed in her apartment by those airstrikes.
U.S. officials say they have not confirmed the reports of Cancel’s death. Relatives say his body has not yet been found.