I remember the day I met Austin Tice, the freelance journalist being held captive by regime authorities in Syria.
It was summer 2007, a few months before my battalion’s trip to the Iraq sandbox. He was initially earmarked to be a platoon commander in my company, for which I was the executive officer (XO). We chatted for a few minutes (he had done a MEU float and graduated from Georgetown) before he was called into the battalion XO’s office.
Unlike most of the Marines in the battalion, he was an active duty Marine (Marine reserve infantry battalions typically received a drop of active-duty lieutenants in the first few weeks of the pre-deployment training program to fill officer shortfalls). I found out a few hours later that he had been transferred to a sister company, and I had little contact with him afterward. By all accounts, he was an excellent officer.
It takes a special kind of courage – or crazy, depending on whom you ask – to go to war with little more than a laptop and a camera. The Newseum in Washington, D.C. has a memorial devoted to journalists who were killed covering the news – more than 2,100 names are etched on the massive structure. Over the past decade, there has been no shortage of journalists who have been killed, wounded or captured during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For every adventurer like Michael Yon, who has regaled us with rich stories from the battlefield, there are countless others who never got to file again – killed in the crossfire of the conflicts they were covering.
I don’t pretend to know Austin well or understand his motivations for chronicling the Syrian uprising. I do know that he was performing a service that is vital to helping people understand what this civil war is all about, what’s happening on the ground and what it means to us.
Do the Chairman a solid and say a prayer for Austin and his family. If prayer isn’t your thing, I’m sure a good thought would be appreciated by his friends and family.