BIRMINGHAM Ala. (WIAT) — Two Alabama veterans captured in Ukraine are now home and reunited with their closest loved ones. Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh had been held as prisoners of war by Russia until they were freed on Wednesday.
It was a warm and cheerful welcome home for Drueke and Huynh this afternoon. Family members say they are excited for them to finally be home so they can catch their breath and process everything they’ve been through.
“I’m not sure there were a lot of words,” said Huynh’s future mother-in-law, Darla Black. “There was a lot of screaming a lot of crying and a lot of laughing.”
After being held as prisoners of war by Russia since June 9, the families of Drueke and Huynh were notified they had finally been set free as of Wednesday this week.
They landed home in Alabama Saturday afternoon. Drueke’s aunt, Dianna Shaw says they never lost hope for their safe return.
“We felt confident that Alex and Andy had the training, had the fortitude to get through it,” Shaw said. “Um, we also felt very supported by the U.S. government. And then once we made connection with the Ukrainian government, we felt very supported by them.”
Shaw says that though not all details have been revealed, they know Drueke and Huynh were severely dehydrated. Drueke was blindfolded for several hours during captivity.
During their release, Shaw says Drueke and Huynh were uncertain of their fate.
“What he said to me was, ‘Oh we knew we were being released, but we didn’t know if it was a prisoner exchange or an execution squad,’” Shaw said.
Black says this period of uncertainty forced them to rely heavily on their faith.
“We’ve been through what we feel like a crucible now,” Black said. “It’s proven. It’s shown and we got our miracle that we were praying for and I still kind of can’t believe it.”
The families say they have no intention of overwhelming Alex and Andy with too big of a welcome home but are very excited to enjoy long-awaited family time as they re-adjust to life in Alabama.