Due to Easter running right on the heels of Muster, my blog post is coming a few days late. I’ll be playing catch-up for a few days thanks to how busy its been lately. But, as always, I am thankful to be busy!
“If there is an A&M man within 100 miles of you, you are expected to get together, eat a little, and relive your days at the A&M College of Texas.” – 1923 Texas Aggie
You may be asking yourself, “What is Aggie Muster?” In the most basic of terms, its a memorial service for all Aggies who have passed away in the last year… a memorial service that is held all around the world (in more than 300 locations!) every April 21st. It’s held in restaurants and private homes. It’s held in large banquet halls and army barracks. The main Muster ceremony is held, of course, on campus in College Station, Texas.
As per the Association of Former Student’s Website:
Aggies gathered together on June 26, 1883, to live over again their college days, the victories and defeats won and lost upon the drill field and in the classroom. By April 21, 1903, this annual gathering evolved into a celebration of Texas Independence on San Jacinto Day. These early meetings included field games and banquets for Aggies to reflect and celebrate their memories of Aggieland. “Let every alumni answer a roll call,” wrote the Former Students. It was not until 1922, however, that April 21 became the official day of events for all Aggies; thus, the annual tradition of Muster was born.
By 1929, the meetings had spread worldwide, and in 1942 Aggie Muster gained international recognition. Twenty-five men, led by General George Moore ’08, Mustered during the Japanese siege of the Philippine island of Corregidor. Knowing that Muster might soon be called for them, these Aggies embodied the commitment, dedication, and friendship that is the essence of the Aggie Spirit. They risked their lives to honor their beliefs and values. That small group of Aggies on an outpost during World War II inspired what has developed into one of our greatest traditions.
Traditions. Anyone who knows anything at all about Texas A&M knows that we thrive on traditions. I’m proud of them all, but my two absolute favorite traditions are Aggie Muster and Silver Taps.
Think of Silver Taps as the smaller monthly version of Muster, where the memories of A&M undergraduate and graduate students who have passed away in the last month are remembered in a late night ceremony in the Academic Plaza.
From the Aggie Traditions Website:
Around 10:15 that night, the lights are extinguished and hymns chime from Albritton Tower. Students silently gather at the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross. At 10:30pm, the Ross Volunteer Firing Squad marches into the plaza and fires three rifle volleys. Buglers then play a special rendition of Silver Taps by Colonel Richard Dunn. Taps is played three times from the dome of the Academic Building: once to the north, south, and west. It is not played to the east because the sun will never rise on that Aggie again.
Campus Muster in 2002
Muster, however, honors current and former students. I remember attending my first Muster on campus, and I remember how tears filled my eyes as the roll call was read. I didn’t know any of the people personally. It didn’t matter. It was powerful and humbling. It was awe inspiring to know that some day MY name would be called.
While still living in Texas, even after graduation I made sure to attend the campus Muster every year. It was so important to me to be there. I took my now-husband to campus Muster one year as well, and he, too, was moved by it. I think it was that very night that he said himself that any children we have must attend A&M.
When I moved to Nashville, I made it a priority to attend the local Muster. I reached out to the only Aggie’s email I had, and ironically he happened to be Muster chair. I not only attended, I participated!
I’m not even sure how it happened, but the very next year was my first year to be Muster chair… and I’ve been it every year since. This year was my 4th year as Muster chair for the Middle Tennessee Texas A&M Club. This was the first year I wisened up and had a committee to help me… I have learned I can’t do it all and that sometimes it works best to let go a little and let others help out. I think it went a lot smoother this year because of that.
Honestly, the Association of Former Students guides the way of planning Muster. In that respect, its not that difficult. However, I want it to be good. I want it to be the best it can be. And it is in that want (and pride and love for Muster) that I find myself stressing out to the -nth degree.
I have learned, though, that you’ll never make everyone happy. SOMEONE will complain about something, and all I can do is look at the big picture. What will be best for the majority of the group, all while honoring the tradition.
Doing the War Hymn at Muster 2011
One of the coolest things about Mustering out of state is meeting so many wonderful Aggies. I’ve found many wonderful friendships I’d have never had otherwise — ironically many of them who were students the same time I was! We just never crossed paths back then!
I love meeting old Ags who have stories of days long before I got there (MANY before I was even born!). I love welcoming recent graduates who are just stepping foot out in the world.
I even love meeting the “significant others” of Aggies, especially those who are “Aggies by association” (like my husband). I teased one this year who attends the University of Tennessee. “Nobody’s perfect,” I said with a giggle and a twinkle in my eye. I wasn’t being serious, and I couldn’t have been happier to have them in attendance.
Two years ago, we actually had a Baylor Bear who just happened to be in Nashville that night attend our Muster, and they stood in silent respect as we called the roll. Even our rivals respect this tradition.
I am sure I drive many people crazy talking about Texas A&M and being an Aggie. I’m aware of that, and at times I feel a liiiiiittle guilty about it. But perhaps by taking a moment to explain Muster, maybe others will come to understand at least a little bit WHY I have such a pride for my University. It’s because of traditions such as Muster, and the way we all become a family when we become students… a family that helps one another, respects one another, and honors each other when we pass away. That’s pretty darn special, and that is something that can’t be denied.
Roll Call for the Absent
In many lands and climes this April day
Proud sons of Texas A&M unite.
Our loyalty to country, school, we pray,
and seal our pact with bond of common might.
We live again those happy days of yore
on campus, field, in classroom, dorm, at drill
Fond memory brings a sigh — but nothing more;
Now we are men and life’s a greater thrill,
Before we part and go upon our way,
We pause to honor those we knew so well;
The old familiar faces we miss so much today
Left cherished recollections that time cannot dispel.
Softly call the Muster,
Let comrade answer, “Here!”
Their spirits hover ‘round us
As if to bring us cheer!
Mark them ‘present’ in our hearts.
We’ll meet some other day
There is no death, but life etern
For our old friends such as they!
by Dr. John Ashton ‘06