Alabama POWs Reunited with Families After 104 Days in Russian Captivity
Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh are back in Alabama with their families after spending more than 100 days in the captivity of Russian-backed forces fighting in Ukraine.
Drueke, a Tuscaloosa man, and Huynh who lives in Hartselle, legally traveled to eastern Europe earlier this year to serve alongside Ukrainian forces fighting against invading Russians and their regional allies.
Drueke and Huynh were separated from their unit during heavy fighting in June and were ultimately captured by enemy forces. They were held prisoner for more than 100 days, during which Drueke was allowed sporadic contact with his mother Lois 'Bunny' Drueke, back in Tuscaloosa.
Just as both families braced for the possibility of heartbreak this month as a Ukrainian counteroffensive threatened to push Russian forces toward desperate measures, Drueke and Huynh were released from captivity last week as part of a prisoner exchange brokered by Saudi Arabia.
The duo flew to Saudi Arabia and received medical clearance to return to the United States, then flew to New York City and on to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport Saturday to reunite with their loved ones.
“The men are in excellent spirits,” said Dianna Shaw, Drueke's aunt and spokesperson for both men. “Now our immediate focus is on their physical health. First up will be thorough evaluations by medical professionals who understand the conditions they endured. Right after that will be necessary interviews by government officials of Ukraine and the U.S. to document their treatment while in captivity."
Drueke, Huynh and their loved ones spent a few hours in a Birmingham bar before separating for the first time in months, Huynh's mother-in-law-to-be Darla Black said in a press release.
“Andy and Alex are so close now, we didn’t want their parting to be sudden,” Black said. “They were separated from the UK POWs abruptly in Saudi Arabia, and didn’t get to say a proper goodbye, so we wanted to give them a chance to part on their own terms. And it did take them about two hours to be ready for that."
Hunyh reportedly asked to eat at his favorite fast food restaurant and get a haircut so he could be presentable for church on Sunday. Drueke wanted a beer and to reunite with his 100-pound rescue dog, Diesel.
Both men are expected to say more about their time in captivity in the coming days, but for now their families and everyone who has hoped and prayed for their safe return are happy to have them back in the Yellowhammer State.
“I woke up this morning to the sight and sound of my boy home,” Bunny Drueke said Sunday. “That is the definition of happiness."