Thursday, April 21, 2011

Softly Call the Muster....

‎"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!"

It's hard for me to describe exactly why I love A&M so much. There are many things that I *don't* love about A&M. I don't love how we're "leading the way" in petitioning for a bill in the state legislature that not only limits funding for GLBT resource centers on campuses across the state, but would also require those funds to be split to fund a "Traditional Family Values" resource center as well. I don't like that despite our enrollment being over half women, that men still have most of the power positions. I don't like that we attract religious wackos (see my post on Shawn the Baptist) or that we seem to end up on CNN every few years for some weird thing or another (affirmative action bake sales, throwing eggs at a caricature of Obama when he was running for president, racist videos made for class, marriage ceremonies to trees and statues to protest gay marriage, etc.).

But those things, they're changing. And they're nothing compared to the Aggie Spirit. Football games where we all stand the whole game ready to "go in" for our team as the 12th man, Midnight Yell where we practice our yells, the War Hymn, and The Spirit, Silver Taps where we gather at 10:30 at night to remember the Aggies who have fallen in the past month, and Muster, where we get together with other Aggies to remember every one who has died in the past year.

Aggie Tradition tells us that the first Muster was held on June 26, 1883 to remember the "battles" won and lost on the field and in the classroom. We've changed the tradition a bit. Now we celebrate on April 21st, the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto (the day Texas won her independence). In 1942 on Corregidor Island, General Macarthur Moore '08 (that's 1908!) gathered the Aggies under his command and held a roll call as part of his Muster ceremony. And so, we have a "roll call" for the absent where anyone who has died since the last Muster ceremony is remembered when we call their name and someone says "here." In this way, we show that student or not, alive or not, you are always part of the Aggie family.

College Station has the largest Muster gathering, but there are almost 300 worldwide. When I worked in Washington, D.C., I went to a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington sponsored by the National Capital Texas A&M Club.  There are Muster ceremonies on almost every military base, including Iraq and Afghanistan, and in places you might not expect like Australia, and Angola.

Not all of them are like campus Muster. Not all of them have displays of the personal effects of those who have died, or have a "camaraderie BBQ." Not everyone has a bugler playing Silver Taps, or the Ross Volunteers firing a 21 gun salute. Some Msuters are nothing more than a barbecue and a role call, and others are a quick get together behind the front lines like that one Muster under siege from the Japanese all those years ago. Whatever Muster looks like, they all fulfill the urge from the class of 1923, that "if there is an A&M man within oIf there is an A&M man within one-hundred miles of you, you are expected to get together, eat a little, and live over the days you spent at the A&M College of Texas." 

There's a spirit, can ne'er be told...

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