TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — We are hearing from Tuscaloosa native Alex Drueke about his capture by Russian forces for the first time. He and Andy Huynh of Hartselle were held in captivity for more than 100 days until they were released on Sept. 21 after going to Ukraine to volunteer with the army.
“I had lost my son and now I have him back again and it’s even sweeter to me,” Bunny Drueke said.
Mother and son, reunited. Sitting next to each other on the couch at home is something Bunny worried would never happen again.
“With a military background I was realistic going into this,” Alex said. “I know the things that can happen in war, I served in Iraq two times. I thought I was prepared and mostly I was.”
The veterans were captured on June 9 after going to Ukraine to volunteer with their military.
“I never completely lost hope” Alex said. “Did definitely have a lot of down moments. That’s why it was extra good when Andy and I got put back together.”
The two were grateful to have each other when they did in captivity. Neither had met until Alex arrived in mid-April to volunteer.
“It was very, very suspicious to the Russians,” Alex said. “They swore we knew each other before because we were both from Alabama, we were both military, you know.”
Even now, inseparable.
“They’re like two teenage girls,” Bunny said. “Every time I turn around he’s on the phone and I go, oh, it’s Andy.”
His so-called prison spouse has been turned into a lifelong family friend.
“After I finally let go of Alex, the next thing I knew I was grabbed by Andy and he says ‘hello, mom’ and I just hugged him because I never met the boy and yet he feels like one of my sons,” Bunny said.
Alex said if it wasn’t for his mother and Huynh’s fiancée keeping their stories in the news, they would not have made it back.
“That gave us a whole lot of very much needed hope,” Alex said. “I don’t think I realized the full scope of what they were really doing.”
When they did finally get released, Alex said they were not told anything for nearly 24 hours.
“I don’t think it really started hitting most of us until we were actually in the air and the Saudi representatives started talking to us and saying what they were doing,” Alex said.
The men made their homecoming arrival this past weekend, but still ask for continued prayers and support in Ukraine.
“For any Americans that might be in Ukraine, I hope this is giving you something to think about, I hope that you do reassess your situation and why you’re there,” Alex said. “I feel like if you keep Ukraine war alive, you keep Ukrainian people alive, you keep these people alive in your thoughts and in your words, that will go a long way in and of itself.”
The veterans will get to see each other Thursday for the first time since arriving home this past weekend for a new family reunion that’s been months in the making.