For the first time in a decade the family of Austin Tice has a “cautious” optimism that their son, a Marine veteran who was working as a freelance journalist in Syria in 2012 when taken hostage, might have a diplomatic pathway home.

“After this week’s meeting I cautiously believe things are moving in the right direction,” Debra Tice, Austin Tice’s mother, said Sunday at the National Press Club in Washington. “I encourage you all to feel that too.”

Debra Tice stood at the press club podium on the 10th anniversary of her son’s capture, after having met personally with President Joe Biden earlier in the week.

On Wednesday, Biden issued a press release directly addressing work to bring him home.

“I am calling on Syria to end this and help us bring him home,” Biden said in the release.

Austin Tice served as a Marine officer from 2005 through 2015, counting individual ready reserve time.

Following his time in the Marine Corps, he returned to Georgetown University for law school. It was between his second and third years in law school, in the summer of 2012, that he traveled to Syria to report for multiple media outlets on the Syrian Civil War.

In the country from May 2012 to August 2012, Austin Tice was leaving Syria, headed to Lebanon and then a trip back home to return to law school. His last known whereabouts were on Aug. 14, 2012, according to his family.

Days later an unidentified source told officials at the Czech embassy that he had been “arrested” and was being held.

As of 2022, the Syrian government has not acknowledged that it is holding Tice or previously held him. No group has made any public demands for him as a hostage.

But, within weeks of his 2012 capture, a short video posted on YouTube showed a bound Austin Tice with what appear to be local area fighters in a rugged, hilly desert terrain.

U.S. government officials have publicly stated that they believe Austin Tice is alive, being held in Syria, and that they are working for his return.

‘Losing 10 years of his life’

While each day brings its own struggles as the Tice family holds an ongoing vigil, Sunday brought its own sad note.

“Today, Austin has to grapple with the terrible realization of losing 10 years of his life,” Debra Tice said. “For me it is the most painful day of the 3,653 days my first born has been held in secret.”

And she, along with her family, continue to pray that Austin Tice remains strong, continues to hold out hope for himself and a belief that he will walk free, she said.

But, as Debra Tice said in her remarks, her family saw little action on the part of President Barack Obama’s administration.

She told Marine Corps Times in past interviews that the family’s hopes were raised when President Donald Trump publicly called on the Syrian government to release their son during a COVID-19 press conference in early 2020.

Then, in a book titled “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir” by former National Security Adviser John Bolton, details revealed that while Trump pushed for his staff to get Austin Tice home, both Bolton and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dissuaded the president from talking directly with the Syrians, whose conditions required the complete removal of U.S. forces from Syria.

Currently as many as 900 U.S. troops remain in Syria, assisting the Syrian Democratic Forces, who directly oppose the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Debra and Marc Tice, Austin Tice’s father, attended the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in late April. It was at that public event that Steven Portnoy, association president and CBS Network journalist, called out the Tice family, asking Biden to meet directly with them.

A few days later, on April 2, the Tice family met with Biden.

In her remarks Sunday, Debra Tice gave an accounting of that meeting, noting that National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and other national security staff were present when Biden gave his directives.

“The president gave them a clear directive, meet with the Syrians, listen to them, find out what they want and work with them,” Debra Tice said.

That is an abrupt turn from past administrations, which officials have said reached out to Syria, but through second- and third-party channels.

An administration official who asked not to be identified by name due to the nature of the work discussed told Marine Corps Times in July that staff have approached Syria directly through its official channels and have received no response.

Despite that May meeting, Debra Tice emphasized the lag time in actions to aid her son.

“That meeting with the president was May 2,” she said. “Thirteen weeks ago. Our government is just now in the process of setting up a meeting. It was eleven weeks after the president’s directive that we reached out directly to the Syrians to request a meeting. And that’s all I can share today.”

Speakers from Georgetown University, the Washington Post, McClatchy Company and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken shared remarks both in person and via prerecorded video at the Sunday event.

Austin Tice had done freelance journalism work for CBS, the Post and McClatchy prior to his capture, among others.

In a video message, Washington Post Chief Executive Officer Fred Ryan spelled out exactly what his organization is calling on the Biden Administration to do.

The Post has displayed a banner on its headquarters building, run full page print advertisements pushing the president to do more to bring Austin Tice home, along with other advocacy work.

“It’s time for (the administration) to take concrete steps to deliver on commitments to Austin’s family and fellow citizens, including engaging in consistent and sustained dialogue with the Syrian government,” Ryan said.

McClatchy CEO Tony Hunter, also a Marine Corps veteran, put his thoughts bluntly.

“We shouldn’t be here, not after 10 years of waiting for Austin Tice to be either released or rescued and returned home,” Hunter said. “He’s one of our own.”

Hunter noted the “flurry of statements and words” from the Biden administration in recent months but had his own observation.

“Statements like these might be encouraging, but words to not amount to action. We need to see movement and results,” Hunter said.

The McClatchy CEO had a stark closing message.

“Let us not rest until President Biden brings Austin Tice home,” he said. “Anything less amounts to abandonment.”

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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