BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The families of two military veterans from Alabama who are missing in Ukraine this week met virtually with federal government officials and Ukraine’s ambassador, Oksana Markarova, and participated in two Ukrainian-American events to observe that country’s Independence Day.
Alex Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, went missing after their unit came under heavy fire in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine near the Russian border June 9.
“It was wonderful to hear first-hand from the Ambassador that Alex and Andy are a priority along with all their prisoners of war,” Drueke’s mother, Bunny Drueke, said after Thursday’s conversation with Markarova and six members of the U.S. Department of State.
“She also agreed to help us get a letter to President (Volodymyr) Zelensky thanking him for calling our men heroes and asking him not to forget them.”
Huynh’s fiancee, Joy Black, said she was glad to be able to tell Markarova why he wanted to help Ukraine, according to a statement from the families.
“It just laid on Andy’s heart to see teenage boys in Ukraine joining the Army to try to protect their homes,” she said. “Andy felt called to help, and Alex did too, and I could tell that touched her.”
Drueke and Huynh are believed to have been taken into the Donetsk region. Russia and the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic currently control the majority of the region. The U.S. does not recognize the sovereignty of the DPR and has no diplomatic relations with them, making it necessary for Ukraine to lead efforts to get the men released.
Neither Russia nor the DPR has confirmed any information about the missing men.
Drueke, an Army veteran, served two tours in Iraq while Huynh served four years in the U.S. Marines.
Both Black and Bunny Drueke also recently participated in two Ukrainian-American events in Huntsville and Birmingham to celebrate Ukraine’s Independence Day.
“The more Ukrainians I meet, the more I understand why Alex fell in love with the people and the place when he got there,” Bunny Drueke said. “They love freedom the same way we do in America.”
The families’ statement did not provide any details about the men’s current status.