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Marine veteran Andy Tai Huynh, left, and Army veteran Alexander Drueke.

Marine veteran Andy Tai Huynh, left, and Army veteran Alexander Drueke. (Left photo: Jeronimo Nisa/The Decatur Daily via AP; Right photo: Lois “Bunny” Drueke/Diane Williams via AP)

(Tribune News Service) — Two Alabama men released from Russian custody Wednesday didn’t realize immediately they had been freed.

That’s according to a family member who spoke with one of the men Thursday.

Andy Tai Huynh and Alexander Drueke, both veterans from Alabama, were captured in Ukraine during a fight in the Kharkiv area in June.

On Wednesday, the two were released as part of a 10-person exchange brokered by the Saudi government. The two men were reported yesterday in the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia, awaiting an eventual trip home.

Dianna Shaw, Drueke’s aunt, told AL.com that Drueke’s mother, Lois “Bunny” Drueke, spoke with him this morning. According to her, both men have been released from the hospital and are awaiting travel arrangements.

Drueke told his family that the two men were staying in an apartment, with a doctor checking their vitals routinely as both men are being treated for dehydration.

“Alex told Bunny when they first were told they were going somewhere, they weren’t told why or where, so they spent several hours not realizing they were being freed,” Shaw said.

Huynh, 27, of Lawrence County, left the U.S. in early April to fight with Ukrainian forces. The son of Vietnamese immigrants, he had served as a U.S. Marine for four years and, before his departure, was a student at Calhoun Community College.

Huynh moved to north Alabama two years ago from his native California and lives about 120 miles from Drueke. Before leaving for Europe, Huynh told his local newspaper, The Decatur Daily, he couldn’t stop thinking about Russia’s invasion.

Drueke, a 39-year old from Tuscaloosa, is an Iraq War veteran who told his family he had been teaching Ukrainian troops how to use American-made weapons.

The two men bonded over their home state and were together when their unit came under heavy fire. Relatives spoke with Drueke several times by phone while the two were being held.

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