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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Aggie Muster

As I write this, Aggie Muster is being held on the Texas A&M campus and broadcast on the local television station. Muster is a tradition dating back more than a century in which students and former students gather on this day, April 21, to renew friendships and remember those who have died during the year. It takes place around the world on military bases and ships wherever Aggies are stationed and in cities across the country where Aggies live.

This year, the keynote speaker was former A&M President and now Secretary of Defense, Dr. Robert Gates, who read the names of 22 men and women, Aggies, who died in Iraq and Afghanistan during the time he has been Secretary. Some of them were students whose diplomas he signed.

The focus of the muster ceremony takes place in a darkened auditorium where the names of each person who died during the year--student, former student, faculty and staff--are read. As each name is read, a candle is lit and someone answers "Here" on their behalf.

I don't know of a comparable tradition in any other institution. Every student knows when they enroll that, someday, their name will be called and someone will step forward to answer, "Here," for them when they cannot answer for themselves.

By the time the last name was called, the auditorium was completely encircled with lit candles. Then, still in darkness, an honor guard marched in in silence in the excruciatingly slow funeral cadence. It was too dark to see them. You knew they were there because your heard their boots striking the floor in unison. Then you heard the guns being shouldered and then three volleys. The muzzle flash of the guns barely cut the darkness.

The ceremony ended with the playing of silver taps, played three times, from the North, the South and the West, but not from the East because the sun will not rise on these Aggies again.

The ceremony never fails to move me. We should all add a muster to our lives. The next time you are with family or friends, softly say the names of those who have died and let somebody answer "Here" on their behalf.


  1. Jack Ammann said...

    Greetings all...Here comes Jack J Ammann Jr...Texas A&M, Class of
    '54...sometime known as Mr Lillie. Muster, to me, is and was THE most moving experience in my lifetime...especially when I was in the Corps and on campus. Some people do not understand the full impact of this occasion. You just have to live it to REALLY understand. It's kind of like the Bonfire. Some people ask, "What's the big deal?" I just tell 'em my lexicon isn't big enough to tell you and you wouldn't understand if it was. You just have to LIVE IT to understand.

    Jack J Ammann Jr '54
    San Antonio, Texas