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

Sep 24, 2022, 1:28 PM | Updated: Sep 25, 2022, 12:15 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)

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

Protesters hold up blank papers and chant slogans as they march in protest in Beijing, Sunday, Nov....
Associated Press

China’s ‘zero-COVID’ limits saved lives but no clear exit

China’s strategy of controlling the coronavirus with lockdowns, mass testing and quarantines has provoked the greatest show of public dissent against the ruling Communist Party in decades. Most protesters on the mainland and in Hong Kong have focused their anger on restrictions that confine families to their homes for months. Global health experts have criticized […]
14 hours ago
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron speaks at a news conference on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, in F...
Associated Press

Kentucky AG avoids talk of more exceptions to abortion ban

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s attorney general stood firmly behind the state’s near-total abortion ban Monday, saying he promotes Kentucky values “without fear or favor” though the Republican gubernatorial stopped short of saying whether he supports adding more exceptions to the ban. At a news conference, Daniel Cameron refrained from commenting on calls for the […]
14 hours ago
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks on the House floor at the Capitol in Washington, Thurs...
Associated Press

HBO to air Nancy Pelosi doc shot by daughter Alexandra

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A documentary on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s life and groundbreaking political career, shot and edited by her daughter, will debut on HBO next month. Alexandra Pelosi’s “Pelosi in the House” will premiere Dec. 13 and will include footage shot during the Jan. 6 insurrection. Some of that footage, including moments when […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

FBI confirms remains in landfill belong to Georgia toddler

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — The FBI on Monday confirmed that the bones found in a Georgia landfill are those of a toddler who had been reported missing last month and whose mother was arrested last week on charges including murder. The FBI used DNA analysis to confirm that the bones belonged to 20-month-old Quinton Simon, […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Closing prices for crude oil, gold and other commodities

Benchmark U.S. crude oil for January delivery rose 96 cents to $77.24 a barrel Monday. Brent crude for January delivery fell 44 cents to $83.19 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline for December delivery was unchanged at $2.33 a gallon. December heating oil fell 2 cents to $3.22 a gallon. December natural gas fell 31 cents to […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Attorneys: ‘Botched’ execution caused pain and torture

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama prison staff strapped an inmate to a death chamber gurney, despite a court order in place at the time blocking the execution from going forward, and later subjected him to numerous needle jabs, including in the neck and collarbone region while an official held his head, attorneys wrote in a […]
14 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
‘We got our miracle’: Freed Americans back home in Alabama