I’ve never really talked much about my alma mater on here. I have readers from all over the world so the school that I once attended probably doesn’t even raise a blip on their radar.
Today, however, I got an email from the alumni association reminding me that the annual “Aggie Muster” is approaching.
A little back story. I attended Texas A&M University. It’s one of the oldest Universities in Texas and a common saying is that it’s the “original university of Texas”. (Our biggest rival is UT in Austin. We were founded before them so we try to get a little jab in from time to time)
Our school was originally a military institution and still has a very strong connection with the different branches of the U.S. Military. The Corps of Cadets is the largest and oldest student organizations on campus and almost half of the corps members go on to become commissioned officers in the Armed Forces.
Because loyalty, honor and integrity are core values in the military they are also important character traits that each Aggie is expected to demonstrate. Maybe that’s one reason I have always felt such a strong sense of loyalty to my friends; it’s what I was taught to do!
Along with these traits comes a sense of pride and tradition. To be awarded an Aggie Ring is one of the highest forms of recognition a student can receive. In my day, it was a lot harder to qualify for a ring than it is today, but there is still that sense of brotherhood when I sit down in a meeting and see that golden giant on the right hand of a fellow engineer.
Other traditions we celebrate are Yell Practice, (instead of having “cheers” to chant at football games we have yells that are led by the Corps. In fact, until recent years, A&M didn’t even have actual cheerleaders and those they did have were male!) Bonfire (which is now an unsanctioned event since the collapse of the one in ’99 led to the University banning the practice), The Big Event (the largest student led charity event in the U.S.) and of course, Muster.
Muster is the one that has prompted this post. Aggie Muster is a tradition that has taken place since the 1800’s. It is a somber event and one that ends with every person in tears.
The Muster is a “roll call” if you will, of those Aggies we have lost in the past year. Whether they are current students or Alumni that graduated 50 years ago, it doesn’t matter! Once an Aggie, always an Aggie.
The Muster is a celebration of that Aggies life and the contribution they made to the world. The impact they had on someone!
As the arena is filled with Aggies and their families, a list is read. As each name of a fallen Aggie is called, a family member or friend announces “HERE” and lights a candle in their honor. The response of “HERE” is to remind us that they are never truly gone. Their memory lives within us and their legacy will carry on. The candle represents the light that they have brought to our lives.
As I said, almost half of the Corps members go on to become officers in the military and many more of us go on to serve as Non Commissioned officers, as well. Because of that, I have avoided The Muster for many years.
Each day in the news, I would read about a fallen soldier who was stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan. How a life was ended too soon in defense of a nation. I’d also open my emails to find announcements of fallen Aggies who were serving in these far off places.
The notion of sitting in the Arena, listening to name after name of Aggies who were no longer with us was more than I could handle.
I was talking to Julie about it. She was an Aggie, briefly, and said that she would like to go. To pay respect to those who have passed. She said that she thought I owed it to them to attend, as well.
I never thought about it that way, but I guess she’s right. One day my name will be read aloud and one of my daughters will stand and announce “HERE” and light a candle on my behalf. An arena filled with Aggies, young and old will come together to celebrate my life and the life of others, even if it’s just for one day.
I can’t really boast about the long standing traditions of my school without mentioning Muster, so I owe it to those who have gone before me to stand up and celebrate their lives with my fellow Aggies!
Here’s to honor, integrity, tradition and loyalty!
“Greater than sadness is the celebration of what they have meant to us and why we answer ‘here’.”
– M.L. Cashion ’53