Seven years ago Wednesday, journalist and Marine Corps veteran Austin Tice was detained at a checkpoint in Syria and kidnapped. A short video was released five weeks after his capture, but Tice has been neither seen nor heard from since.
Even so, Tice's relatives say they believe he's still alive. So does the United States government.
The Tices are trying to keep his story remains in the spotlight so that after all this time, the government can bring him home as soon as possible.
On Sunday, which was Austin Tice's 38th birthday, relatives shared a statement on the family's website.
"Austin went to Syria in 2012. As a freelance journalist, he was there to cover the escalating conflict and raise awareness of the horrible consequences of urban warfare, especially for children. His 31st birthday was the last time we were able to share the joy of this special date with him -- singing the 'birthday song' over the Internet, reminiscing about the past year and sharing dreams for the year ahead," they said. "Three days later, on Aug. 14, 2012, Austin was detained at a checkpoint near Damascus. He has been held in secret and in silence for almost seven years."
The reason for Tice's capture is unknown; also a mystery is who might be detaining the 38-year-old. No group or person has ever asked for ransom. The FBI has offered $1 million for information leading to Tice's return.
In a video statement on Monday, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the U.S. is actively working to bring Tice home to his family.
"An award-winning journalist and Marine Corps veteran, Austin was deeply committed to documenting the plight of ordinary Syrians suffering from the horrors of war. The United States is actively working to bring Austin safely home and to reunite him with his parents, Debra and Marc, and his brothers and sisters," Ortagus of Tice, who has six siblings.
"We strongly urge Austin's captors to release him and to end this painful ordeal," she said. "We call on anyone who may have information about Austin's whereabouts - governments and individuals -- to work cooperatively with us to secure his safe release and to bring him home."
In light of Tice's birthday and the anniversary of his prolonged detention, his relatives have renewed its efforts to bring awareness his plight, keep him in the headlines, and urge people to contact lawmakers to "ask about Austin."
"We just can’t seem to find the right size hammer," Debra Tice told Fox News in a July phone interview. “We keep reaching out to all the media outlets and saying, 'Hey, this is your colleague and you should ask about him every chance you get.'"
"The United States government has assured us that Austin is still alive,” she said. "So it’s not just a mom and dad and wishful thinking. It’s verifiable information."
The National Press Club Journalism Institute this week launched a new initiative to help bring more attention to Tice's situation.
The campaign is called "Ask About Austin Tice," and the institute is urging people to contact Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and their local members of Congress. People are also urged to volunteer for a Sept. 23 event in Washington, D.C., where Tice's photos from Syria will be on display at the Rayburn Building Foyer, according to the web.
Tice is an award-winning journalist was enrolled in Georgetown Law at the time of his detention, having graduated from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. Tice had earned the rank of captain during his time in the Marine Corps, and he is also an Eagle Scout.
Austin Tice's father, Marc, tweeted on Sunday, "Happy 38th Birthday Austin! We are glad you were born! We are blessed to be your parents, sisters and brothers, family. The world is a better place with you in it. You will come safely home. We love you!"
According to Reporters Without Borders, 29 of 54 journalists currently being held hostage worldwide are in Syria.