Two U.S. veterans who volunteered to battle in Ukraine have gone lacking, their households mentioned on Wednesday.
One man was named Alex Drueke, 39, a former U.S. Military employees sergeant who served two excursions in Iraq, his household mentioned in an announcement. The opposite was named Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, a former Marine, Darla Black, the mom of Mr. Huynh’s fiancée, Pleasure Black, mentioned in a cellphone interview.
The U.S. State Division mentioned on Wednesday that it was “conscious of unconfirmed studies of two U.S. residents captured in Ukraine.”
“We’re carefully monitoring the state of affairs and are involved with Ukrainian authorities,” a State Division spokesperson mentioned. “As a consequence of privateness concerns, we’ve no additional remark.”
It was not confirmed however appeared probably that Mr. Drueke and Mr. Huynh had disappeared collectively. Mr. Drueke’s household mentioned that on the time he was with “one other volunteer soldier from the U.S.,” and Ms. Black mentioned that the 2 males had turn out to be buddies in the course of the battle.
Mr. Drueke’s platoon got here underneath “heavy fireplace” on June 9, main all its members to fall again — apart from Mr. Drueke and the opposite U.S. volunteer, in response to his household’s assertion. Reconnaissance by foot and drone didn’t flip up any signal of the 2 troopers, the assertion continued.
“This might imply they’re in hiding or it might imply they’ve been captured,” mentioned Mr. Drueke’s mom, Bunny Drueke.
The 2 males, if captured, could be the primary People identified to have turn out to be prisoners of battle in the course of the battle.
The Drueke household was notified of the skirmish and the seek for the 2 lacking People by one other member of the platoon on Monday, the household’s assertion mentioned.
“When Russia invaded Ukraine, Alex instantly informed me he needed to go use his expertise to coach Ukrainians in the right way to function American weaponry,” mentioned Mrs. Drueke. “He isn’t married, he doesn’t have children, and he has the coaching and the expertise. He felt it was his responsibility to assist defend democracy, wherever wanted.”
The assertion described Mr. Drueke as an avid hiker who earlier than the battle had been residing on household land in rural western Alabama whereas hoping to plan “a brand new journey” together with his Mastiff rescue, Diesel.
In an interview with WAAY-TV, an ABC affiliate in northern Alabama, Mr. Huynh, who was recognized as residing in a small metropolis within the area, Hartselle, and being from Orange County, Calif., mentioned that he had determined to journey to Ukraine and battle after seeing 18-year-olds combating for his or her freedom.
“I do know there’s a possible of me dying,” he mentioned. “I’m keen to present my life for what I imagine is true.”
Earlier than going to Ukraine, Mr. Huynh studied robotics at an area school that Pleasure additionally attended, Ms. Black mentioned. He had been within the Marines for 4 years, getting into proper after graduating from highschool.
“Andy didn’t make the straightforward alternative, he made the suitable alternative,” Pleasure mentioned by way of sobs in a cellphone interview. “Andy didn’t go there for an journey. He simply needed to assist.”
Each the Black and Drueke households mentioned they’d final heard from the lads on June 8, when every mentioned they’d be out of attain for a couple of days.
“Alex’s household has turn out to be our household,” Ms. Black mentioned. “If there may be anybody who understands how my daughter feels proper now, its Alex’s mom, so all of us really feel related.”
An Alabama congressional delegation — together with Senators Richard Shelby and Tommy Tuberville, in addition to Representatives Terri Sewell and Robert Aderholt, who signify the lads’s districts — is coordinating with the State Division, Ms. Sewell’s chief of employees, Hilary Beard, mentioned. A spokesperson for Gov. Kay Ivey added that the delegation was additionally working with the F.B.I.
For the reason that battle started on Feb. 24, an unknown variety of foreigners have volunteered to assist Ukraine in numerous methods, amongst them tons of of American army veterans who’ve sought to affix fight. The State Division reiterated in its assertion that U.S. residents shouldn’t journey to Ukraine.
There have been no confirmed studies of People being captured, and just one American has been reported useless: Willy Joseph Cancel Jr., 22, a former Marine infantryman from Kentucky who was killed on April 24 or 25 when his unit was overrun by Russian troops, Mr. Cancel’s uncle, Christopher Cancel, mentioned in an interview with The New York Instances.
Western governments and human rights teams have been rattled final week when a courtroom in Russia-occupied japanese Ukraine sentenced two Britons and a Moroccan man to loss of life, accusing them of being mercenaries.
Dave Philipps contributed reporting.