‘We got our miracle’: Freed Americans back home in Alabama

Sep 24, 2022, 1:28 AM | Updated: 3:29 pm
Andy Huynh, left, and Alex Drueke, far right, are seen hugging their loved ones after arriving at B...

Andy Huynh, left, and Alex Drueke, far right, are seen hugging their loved ones after arriving at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. The U.S. military veterans disappeared three months ago while fighting Russia with Ukrainian forces. They were released earlier this week by Russian-backed separatists as part of a prisoner exchange. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)

(AP Photo/Kim Chandler)

              Andy Huynh, far left, and Alex Drueke, right, are seen leaving Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. The U.S. military veterans disappeared three months ago while fighting Russia with Ukrainian forces. They were released earlier this week by Russian-backed separatists as part of a prisoner exchange. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)
            
              Andy Huynh, left, and Alex Drueke, right, are seen arriving at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. The U.S. military veterans disappeared three months ago while fighting Russia with Ukrainian forces. They were released earlier this week by Russian-backed separatists as part of a prisoner exchange. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)
            
              Andy Huynh, left, and Alex Drueke, far right, are seen hugging their loved ones after arriving at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. The U.S. military veterans disappeared three months ago while fighting Russia with Ukrainian forces. They were released earlier this week by Russian-backed separatists as part of a prisoner exchange. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Two U.S. military veterans who disappeared three months ago while fighting with Ukrainian forces against Russia arrived home to Alabama on Saturday, greeted by hugs, cheers and tears of joy at the state’s main airport.

Alex Drueke, 40, and Andy Huynh, 27, had gone missing June 9 in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine near the Russian border. The Alabama residents were released as part of a prisoner exchange. The pair had traveled to Ukraine on their own and bonded over their shared home state.

“It’s them!” a family member shouted as the pair appeared at the top of an escalator at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Birmingham, one of Alabama’s largest cities.

Smiling but looking tired, the two were pulled into long emotional hugs by family members after their connecting flight home. Then they were whisked to a waiting car.

“Surreal. I still have chill bumps. I always imagined this day. I always held not just hope but belief in this day. But I thought it was going to be two or three years from now at best,” said Drueke’s aunt, Dianna Shaw.

“There are prisoners of war who have been held for months and years. There are people who have been detained wrongfully for years and for this to come about in three months is, just, unimaginable to me,” she added. “Even though I’m living it, it feels unimaginable, and I don’t want people to forget all the Ukrainians who are still being held.”

The families of the two men announced their release on Wednesday. The men were among 10 prisoners released by Russian-backed separatists as part of a prisoner exchange mediated by Saudi Arabia. The Saudi embassy said five British nationals and others from Morocco, Sweden and Croatia also were freed.

Darla Black, whose daughter is engaged to Huynh, said she thought, “there he is. There he is” as Huynh came into view.

“I had to get my hands on him to actually believe it. I’m just overwhelmed with gratitude. We got our miracle,” Black said.

The men had arrived Friday at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“We’re looking forward to spending time with family and we’ll be in touch with the media soon,” Drueke said shortly after arriving in New York with Huynh. “Happy to be home.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

concede...
Associated Press

GOP’s Joe Kent contests results of Washington state race

Republican Joe Kent's campaign said Friday it intends to request a machine ballot recount of the counties within southwest Washington state's 3rd Congressional District.
17 hours ago
Gavel...
Associated Press

Case against man arrested in 1994 death of woman dismissed

Criminal charges against a man suspected in the 1994 murder of a Vancouver, Washington, woman have been dismissed.
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Amnesty International Canada says it was hacked by Beijing

TORONTO (AP) — The Canadian branch of Amnesty International said Monday it was the target of a cyber attack sponsored by China. The human rights organization said it first detected the breach on Oct. 5, and hired forensic investigators and cybersecurity experts to investigate. Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, said the searches […]
17 hours ago
FILE - In this courtroom drawing, from left, Brandon Caserta with his attorney Michael Darragh Hill...
Associated Press

Prosecutors in Whitmer kidnap plot say life sentence fits

Federal prosecutors told a judge Monday that a life prison sentence would be justified for the leader of a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, saying his goal to turn the country upside down in 2020 was a forerunner of rampant anti-government extremism. “If our elected leaders must live in fear, our representative government […]
17 hours ago
FILE - Norfolk Southern locomotives are moved in the in the Conway Terminal in Conway, Pa., Sept. 1...
Associated Press

Investors press railroads to add sick time for workers

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Major freight railroads are facing pressure to add sick days for their workers from a new front: An influential investment group says some of its members are now pushing the measure that Congress declined to as part of the contracts they imposed last week to avert a potentially devastating nationwide rail […]
17 hours ago
FILE - A bulldozer clears an area of forest that will be the line of the Mayan Train in Puerto More...
Associated Press

Mexico pledges to complete huge elevated train in one year

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s troubled Maya Train tourist project will now include a 45-mile (72 kilometer) stretch of elevated trackway through the jungle, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday. López Obrador has changed his mind a number of times on his pet project, which is intended to ferry tourists around the Yucatan peninsula. […]
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
‘We got our miracle’: Freed Americans back home in Alabama