Alexander John-Robert Drueke, 39, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, from Hartselle, Alabama, wanted to volunteer and use their previous military training to help Ukraine fight against Russia’s invasion, their families told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday.
“Alex didn’t go to fight, he said I have the skills to help train Ukrainians soldiers and help them learn how to use the weapons America was sending over there,” said Drueke’s mother, Bunny Drueke.
“He went there to volunteer … he had this gnawing in his heart,” and a burden to serve the Ukrainian people however he can, said Joy Black, Huynh’s fiancé, adding, “he’s just so strong and has such a big heart.”
The two Americans have been missing for a week and are feared captured by Russian forces. They were last seen during a military operation near the town of Izbytske on June 9.
Drueke’s mother said she talked to her son about his decision to travel to Ukraine for about a month. “He said ‘Mom, I really need to go and help the fight in Ukraine because if Putin is not stopped there he’s not going to be satisfied, he’ll become emboldened and eventually Americans will be threatened, and he needs to be stopped now,’” she told CNN.
“Alex did not go there as a representative of the US military, he went there as a civilian with military training. He went there on his own, he was not sent there by our government.”
Black told CNN the last time she spoke to Huynh was on June 8, when he said he would be out of contact for a few days.
“They’re going to find them … we don’t want one to come home without the other,” Drueke said, adding, “I’m trying to remain strong and calm because getting upset won’t help Alex at all.”