On Aug. 11, 31-year-old Austin Tice tweeted about spending his birthday listening to Taylor Swift and drinking whiskey at a pool party with the Free Syrian Army. According to his family, he hasn't been heard from since.
Tice, a Georgetown Law student and freelance journalist who has reported for The Washington Post, McClatchy-Tribune, CNN, CBS News and several other news organizations, was raised in Houston and attended the University of Houston before joining the Marines, serving as a captain in two infantry tours of Iraq and Afghanistan between 2005 and 2011.
Tice crossed into northern Syria from Turkey in May, according to an interview with KUHF, and in recent months has been one of the only Western journalists reporting on the civil war from the capital city of Damascus. (Check out Tice's photos from the front lines here.)
“It’s not uncommon for various journalists moving in and about Syria to be out of communication. We’re very hopeful that that is what is happening,” his father, Marc Tice, told the Associated Press.
Tice's last contact from his son was an email sent on Aug. 12, and according to the Associated Press Tice was expected to return to the United States in mid-August. A planned trip to the border with Lebanon as well as shelling in the Damascus suburb where Tice was staying was originally thought by his editors to be behind the break in communication, according to the Houston Chronicle.
But in recent days Washington Post and McClatchy said they are working with the State Department and other news organizations to find him.
"We understand Austin's passion to report on the struggle in Syria, and are proud of the work he is doing there," parents Marc and Debra Tice said in a prepared statement. "We trust that he is safe, appreciate every effort being made to locate him, and look forward to hearing from him very soon."
Tice's disappearance comes after the similar disappearance of two Middle Eastern television journalists, who are believed to be in the custody of pro-Syrian government forces. More than 20 journalists have been killed in Syria since the outbreak of violence in March 2011.
In July, Tice wrote on Facebook about why he felt it was important for him to go to Syria:
We kill ourselves every day with McDonald's and alcohol and a thousand other drugs, but we've lost the sense that there actually are things out there worth dying for. We've given away our freedoms piecemeal to robber barons, but we’re too complacent to do much but criticize those few who try to point out the obvious. Americans have lost their sense of vision, mistaking asinine partisan squabbles for principles . . .
So that's why I came here to Syria, and it's why I like being here now, right now, right in the middle of a brutal and still uncertain civil war. Every person in this country fighting for their freedom wakes up every day and goes to sleep every night with the knowledge that death could visit them at any moment . . . They're alive in a way that almost no Americans today even know how to be. They live with greater passion and dream with greater ambition because they are not afraid of death.
Neither were the Pioneers. Neither were our granddads. Neither was Neil Armstrong. And neither am I.
No, I don't have a death wish — I have a life wish. So I'm living, in a place, at a time and with a people where life means more than anywhere I've ever been – because every single day people here lay down their own for the sake of others. Coming here to Syria is the greatest thing I've ever done, and it's the greatest feeling of my life."