“We prayed for death. We just wanted to die,” Huynh told ABC News.
By Mark Guarino
When Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh were captured by Russians in Ukraine over the summer and later held in a “black site” for a month, where the two Alabama men said they endured daily torture and lived on spoiled bread and dirty water, they expected death at any moment.
“I am going to die from this situation, or they are going to kill me,” Drueke said he thought during that time.
“We prayed for death. We just wanted to die. We just wanted it to end,” Huynh added.
In their first broadcast interview together, the two U.S. military veterans told ABC News that, although they were from the same state, they did not know each other when they met in Ukraine, where they had traveled to offer their services, either in humanitarian work or training troops.
The interview with Drueke and Huynh will air Thursday on “Good Morning America” and across ABC News. “Good Morning America” airs at 7 a.m. on ABC.
“I did not go over there to fight specifically. But I understood that that was a very real possibility,” Drueke said. What he and Huynh shared, he said, was concern that the Russian invasion of Ukraine would be successful and then spread across Europe.
“We could see that there was a very good possibility this could grow into something much, much larger … We didn’t know how big this was going to get. So it was best to stop it early,” he said. Drueke, 40, retired from the U.S. Army after 12 years, during which he served two tours of duty in Iraq and ended his career as a platoon sergeant.
Huynh, 27, a Marine who was living outside Huntsville with his girlfriend, was working as a delivery driver and going to school when he watched the invasion on television. Volunteering to fight was justified, he said, to prevent “World War III.”
“It felt wrong just to sit back and do nothing,” he said. For the following month, the invasion “kept gnawing” at him until he was losing sleep. “I didn’t want to do nothing. The situation in Ukraine was all I could really think about.”
Early in April, both men arrived in Ukraine. They each entered the country via Poland and, due to various events, ended up serving in a unit for the Ukrainian Foreign Legion. A mission gone awry led to their capture on June 9 of the following year, two months later. Both men acknowledged that they would refrain from providing specifics in order to protect Ukraine’s ongoing efforts, but they did claim that the incident did occur during a drone reconnaissance mission that involved scouting out potential intelligence sources. Everything that could go wrong did, according to Drueke.
“It was very unfortunate how it played out, but just everything went wrong,” he said, adding that the two men ended up facing a battalion and engaged in a firefight. They claimed to have avoided land mines and operational drones while running through dense woods for eight hours. After some time, they claimed they were surrounded, told to kneel, had their hands bound, and had bags placed over their heads. Drueke said, “We were pretty darn sure they were going to put us to death right there.”
Both men were transferred to outposts before being placed in a “black site,” where they claimed they were interrogated, physically assaulted, denied sleep, and made to sit for extended periods of time while wearing blindfolds, on their knees, and with their hands crossed over their necks. The ribs of Drueke were violently broken.
What kept them going was thinking of their families. Huynh got engaged days before leaving while Drueke, who is not married, left behind an extended family and his dog, Diesel. While imprisoned, they said their sole objective was to look out for the other person.
“We were bonded for life,” Drueke said. “My mission was to keep Andy alive, and his mission was to keep me alive. And that’s all it was.”