Jacob Tice was just out of high school when big brother Austin took him on a backpacking trip to Glacier National Park.
Austin, eight years older and in the Marine Corps, was full of muscle. Jacob, as he puts it, was all limbs.
“At one point, I basically collapsed from exhaustion,” Jacob, now 30, recalled this week. “Austin picked up my pack and finished the hike with both our packs. Then he came back and picked me up and carried me. Like it was nothing.”
Jacob, a Tacoma resident, hasn’t spoken to his brother since 2012. That’s when Austin was abducted from the Syrian battlefield while covering that country’s civil war for McClatchy, the Washington Post, CBS and other news outlets.
The Trump administration believes that Austin, a law student turned freelance journalist, is still being held captive. It’s a position Jacob and his family hold as well.
On Thursday (May 2), the National Press Club and coalition partners are teaming up with restaurants across the country for “Night out For Austin Tice.”
The event is meant to raise awareness about Austin and add to the $1 million reward being offered for information leading to Austin’s safe return.
GROWING UP TICE
Austin, 37, is the eldest of seven siblings. He disappeared just after his 31th birthday in August 2012.
“He’s always been this imposing presence but there’s also been this deep, guiding love for us,” Jacob said in an interview with The News Tribune.
The Tice siblings are seventh generation Texans. Jacob came to Tacoma in 2007 for college and stayed.
Until this week, Jacob had never spoken with the news media. His parents, Marc and Debra, have been the family’s public face.
“We all feel, as a consensus, that Austin does not want us to go into some sort of stasis over this,” Jacob said of his siblings.
Like most little brothers, Jacob had a bit of hero worship going on for his much older brother while growing up. In this case, it’s well deserved, Jacob said.
“He is genuinely brilliant,” Jacob said. “He finished with high school at 16. He went to the University of Houston for awhile. Then he decided he wanted to go to Georgetown and through his own sheer determination and hard work got himself there.”
Austin is the family’s standard bearer, Jacob said.
“He held all of us, his little siblings, to a certain standard,” Jacob said. “He’s a captain in the Marine Corps. He’s an excellent law student. He’s an award-winning journalist.”
When Austin returns, Jacob said, he’ll want to know what all his siblings have accomplished during his absence.
“I think it’s important to have answers to those questions that have integrity,” he said.
Jacob works in the auto industry by day and appears frequently as an actor in local theater productions.
Austin visited Jacob in the Tacoma area several times.
Austin, Jacob said, felt his skills with reporting and his time with the Marines made him uniquely qualified to cover the Middle East post Arab Spring.
“He had this need to bring the stories of what was happening there to the attention of the western world,” Jacob said.
He never intended to make it a career. He still had some classes to take at Georgetown University in order to get his law degree and was preparing to leave Syria.
“When he talked to us about it, he was passionate about it,” Jacob said. “My brother is driven by ‘I can do this thing so I should do this thing’.”
The $1 million reward offered by the FBI in April 2018 produced new leads, Jacob said.
“Since then, my family and other people involved have been receiving information that we feel is really helpful,” Jacob said. He hopes that even more money will increase the incentive to provide more information.
Jacob doesn’t know when Austin will be released but he is certain it will happen.
“I focus on the knowledge that I will get that phone call,” he said. “Austin’s coming home.”