Mother of American killed in Ukraine: He had a “high moral value… he wanted to do the right thing”

Rebecca Cabrera, the mother of an American citizen who was killed fighting alongside Ukrainians earlier this week, said her son had a “high moral value” and “wanted to do the right thing,” which is why he chose to join the Ukrainians in their fight against the Russian invasion.

“He has made all of us proud doing what he felt in his heart was right, and ya know, everybody that he’s come in contact with in his life said that they were proud to serve next to him, to be a part of his life, and just everybody remember who he was, he was a hero, and he was doing the right thing,” Cabrera told CNN.

Cabrera last spoke with her son, Willy Joseph Cancel, last Thursday before he was killed on Monday.

“We got to FaceTime a little bit on Thursday, and I got to talk to some of the people in his unit,” Cabrera said. “The correspondence obviously was not a lot because the towers were being blown up and things like that, so we never knew when we would be able to talk to him but he tried communicating to us as much as he could.”

Biden expressed dismay Friday at the news of the American’s death, saying “it is very sad. He left a little baby behind.”

More background: The 22-year-old was working with a private military contracting company when he was killed. The company sent him to Ukraine, and he was being paid while he was fighting there, Cancel’s mother had told CNN.

Cancel, a former US Marine, according to his mother, signed up to work for the private military contracting company on top of his full-time job as a corrections officer in Tennessee shortly before the war in Ukraine broke out at the end of February. When the war broke out, the company was searching for contractors to fight in Ukraine and Cancel agreed to go, Cabrera said.

The White House press secretary today cautioned against Americans traveling to Ukraine to take up arms, saying the administration encourages Americans to find other ways to help.

CNN’s Sam Fossum and Maegan Vazquez contributed reporting to this post. 

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