OCEANSIDE, Calif. (KGTV) - Loved ones are expressing new hope for the release of a journalist and Marine veteran with ties to San Diego, nearly 10 years after he was abducted in Syria.
Debra Tice sent ABC 10news a photo of her son Austin while they were on a boat tour off San Diego in early 2011.
Years after leaving active duty, the Marine captain would train at Camp Pendleton for several months after being mobilized as a reservist for a deployment to Afghanistan, a deployment he requested.
“He felt like he had an obligation after 9/11,” said Debra Tice.
After his deployment, in 2012, during the summer before his final year of law school, Tice traveled to Syria as a freelance journalist, reporting on the suffering of the Syrian people. He had completed his work when he was abducted.
“He was on his way to Lebanon, from Damascus, when he was detained at a checkpoint,” said Debra.
A video released online weeks later showed a blindfolded Tice held by armed men. He hasn't been seen since. Syria has never acknowledged having him. The State Department believes he's still alive and behind held by forces allied with the Syrian government.
For his large family, there is a constant emptiness.
“All the big holidays, small weekends, we never miss him less,” said Debra.
Austin's parents, Debra and Marc Tice, have been front and center advocating for his release since he was taken. Last Monday, President Biden met with them for 40 minutes at the white house.
“It was a just a very genuine engagement to figure out a way forward to bring Austin safely home,” said Debra.
Debra declined to talk specifics, but is hopeful President Biden will act. In the past, Syria has said it won't negotiate about hostages if US troops remain in the country.
The meeting at the White House comes after Marine veteran Trevor Reed was released in a prisoner swap with Russia in late April, after his family also met with President Biden.
Debra says amid Reed's release, there is renewed optimism for Austin, now 40 years old.
“I believe we will see Austin Tice walk free. Eventually, that is going to happen,” said Debra.
Debra, who lives in Houston, credits her faith for getting her through each day. She's now asking for the public for prayers, as well as letters to members of Congress to support Austin's release.