ALABAMA (WHNT) — Andy Huynh and Alexander Drueke, two Alabama men who were captured by Russian forces while fighting with Ukrainian, returned to the state and their families on Saturday.
Both were greeted by hugs and cheers at the Birmingham airport but both men say the ordeal of being captured is something they won’t soon forget.
104 long and agonizing days is how Huynh described his time in a Russian prison. Once captured Huynh told News 19 that the only thing that he relied on was his faith and drawing inner strength from his battle-tested friend Alex Drueke.
“We ended up being captured together and that’s a bond you don’t break,” said Huynh.
Back in April both Huynh and Drueke joined the Ukrainian Foreign Legion with the determination to protect and serve as the two veterans learned while serving years in the military.
“I come from a military background, and I was in the U.S. Army for 12 years and I had two tours in Iraq. I knew I had skills, experiences, and knowledge that I hope could be of use to Ukraine,” said Drueke.
“It was a horrible feeling to just stay behind and do nothing,” said Huynh. “I lost my appetite, and I lost interest in everything that I used to enjoy, and it just felt wrong to just stay home while the people of Ukraine are suffering.”
But in June both men went missing after being captured by Russian-backed separatists while fighting with Ukrainian forces near the city of Kharkiv under intense interrogation and taken to prison.
“At the moment of capture of capture, I felt fear and I was scared,” Huynh explained.
Drueke says after the capture he had no idea what would follow.
“Being in that situation and not knowing what was going on and we didn’t speak the language. Even if we had spoken the language, they wouldn’t have given us details,” Drueke explained.
Over 100 days later the men have returned safely back to Alabama to their families. Their release was a part of a prisoner-of-war exchange between Russia and Ukraine.
“It’s still surreal to me and I’m slowly but surely readjusting — getting more comfortable and just enjoying life really,” said Huynh.
“Sometimes it feels like I’m only home for my two-week rest and relaxation and I’ll be going back soon, but I think I’ll hold off a while on going back,” said Drueke.