Families waiting for word on Americans reported missing in Ukraine

They include Marine Corps and Army veterans.

June 16, 2022, 6:38 PM

Family members are desperately waiting for word after two Americans who volunteered to assist Ukrainian forces have gone missing amid unconfirmed reports of their capture. U.S. officials revealed they're also aware of a third American who has been reported missing during the war.

U.S. lawmakers said Wednesday they have been asked by the families of the former service members from Alabama -- Alexander Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh -- for their help in locating them.

A photo that appears to show both men with their hands behind their backs also started circulating online Thursday.

PHOTO: Alexander Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh are Americans who had volunteered to join the Ukrainian forces. Both are now missing in Ukraine.
Alexander Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh are Americans who had volunteered to join the Ukrainian forces. Both are now missing in Ukraine.
Drueke family | Joy Black

Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., said in a statement her office is helping a family locate Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

"Earlier this week, the mother of Alexander Drueke, a Tuscaloosa Army Veteran who volunteered to assist the Ukrainian Army in combating Russia, reached out to my office after losing contact with her son. According to his family, they have not heard from Drueke in several days," she said in a statement.

Sewell said her office has been in contact with the State Department, the FBI and other members of the Alabama Congressional delegation.

PHOTO: Alexander Drueke, 39, is shown with his mother, Lois "Bunny" Drueke.
Alexander Drueke, 39, is shown with his mother, Lois "Bunny" Drueke.
Drueke family

Drueke, an Army veteran, reportedly went to Ukraine in mid-April to volunteer to help train the Ukrainian forces, his mother, Lois "Bunny" Drueke, told "Good Morning America."

"He wanted to go over and help train the Ukrainian soldiers and show them how to use the equipment that the U.S. has been sending over there for them," she said.

Drueke was a chemical operations specialist in the Army Reserve from 2002 to 2014 and held the rank of staff sergeant at the end of his service, an Army official confirmed to ABC News. He was deployed to Kuwait from December 2004 to December 2005 and to Iraq from November 2008 to July 2009, the official said.

Lois Drueke said she last heard from her son in a text message on June 8.

"He said that he was going dark for a day or possibly two. And I responded to stay safe, that I loved him and he responded, 'Yes, ma'am. I love you too,'" she said. "And that was my last communication with him."

PHOTO: Alexander Drueke is shown in uniform standing next to his grandfather, in 2003.
Alexander Drueke is shown in uniform standing next to his grandfather, in 2003.
Drueke family

She said he was with Huynh at the time, whom he had met since going to Ukraine, and there are unverified reports that they may have been captured by Russian forces.

His family also acknowledged the newly circulating photo that appears to show Drueke and Huynh.

"Our contact at the State Department is aware of possible photographic evidence of Alex's and Andy's capture circulating on Russian media," the Drueke family said in a statement to ABC News. "They are working to verify it. We are very hopeful."

PHOTO: A photo that appears to show missing American soliders Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh in captivity is being circulated and is being investigated by the State Dept.
A photo that appears to show missing Americans Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh in captivity is being circulated and is being investigated by the State Department, according to Drueke's family.
Handout

Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., said his office is helping in the search for Huynh, 27, of Trinity, Alabama, after his family reached out to the congressman's office this week.

"According to Huynh's family, they have not been in contact with him since June 8, 2022, when he was in the Kharkiv area of Ukraine," he said in a statement.

Aderholt said his office has reached out to the State Department and FBI to "get any information possible."

PHOTO: Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, is shown in this undated photo.
Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, is shown in this undated photo.
Joy Black

Huynh, a former Marine, spoke to Huntsville, Alabama, ABC affiliate WAAY in early April about his decision to help defend Ukraine.

"I've made peace with the decision. I know there's a potential of me dying. I'm willing to give my life for what I believe is right," he told the station.

Huynh served in the Marines from 2014 to 2018, reaching the rank of corporal, a Marine Corps spokesperson confirmed to ABC News.

He got engaged in March, before he left for Ukraine the following month.

"We just really want him back," his fiancée, Joy Black, told "Good Morning America" through tears. "He's got such a big heart. He knew this wasn't the easy thing, but this was the right thing."

"Even though not great things have happened I'm still really, really proud of him," she continued.

PHOTO: Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, is shown with his fiance, Joy Black.
Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, is shown with his fiance, Joy Black.
Joy Black

White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he "can't confirm the reports" of two Americans captured in Ukraine.

"We'll do the best we can to monitor this and see what we can learn about it," he said. "Obviously, if it's true, we'll do everything we can to get them safely back home."

The State Department also is aware of the "unconfirmed" reports, a spokesperson said.

"We are limited in terms of what we know at the moment," State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters Thursday. "We're closely monitoring the situation, we are in contact with Ukrainian authorities, as well as with the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the families of the two reported missing U.S. citizens."

Price said the State Department had not had any direct communication with Russia concerning the whereabouts of the two men.

"If we feel that such outreach through our embassy in Moscow or otherwise would be productive in terms of finding out more information on the whereabouts of these individuals, we won't hesitate to do that," he said, adding that the department had not "seen anything from the Russians indicating that two such individuals are in their custody."

Price said the department is also aware of a third, unidentified American who reportedly traveled to Ukraine to fight and whose "whereabouts are unknown."

"Similarly, our understanding was that this individual had traveled to Ukraine to take up arms," Price said, adding that the person was identified as missing "in recent weeks" and that the State Department was also in contact with their family.

The State Department has warned U.S. citizens against traveling to Ukraine during the war and that Russian security officials could be "singling out" U.S. citizens.

When asked about Drueke and Huynh earlier Thursday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that he did not have any information on the missing men.

"Perhaps the Defense Ministry has some information, but I don't," Peskov said at a press briefing.

Several Westerners have been taken prisoner during the war, including two men from the United Kingdom who were sentenced to death this month by Russian-backed separatists who accused them of being mercenaries.

ABC News' Devin Garbitt, Benjamin Stein, Ben Gittleson, Shannon Crawford and Matt Seyler contributed to this report.

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