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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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‘Death Before Dishonor’

Photo by Madi Swinnea/Aggie Corps Media

Construction science junior Kyle Pate unveils the “Hellcat 21” sign on Sept. 2, 2023 on the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets Quad. 

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated for clarification.

Blocks of rich, Texas red cedar wood form a stand several feet tall, with a silver plaque at the top reading “Hellcat 21” in capital, cutout leaders. Below it are three smaller, thinner plaques mounted by black standoffs drilled into the wood, with a scratch mark cutout on the left-hand side and an American flag cutout on the right.

The three plaques read: “Humbly Serve Others,” “Strive For Greatness” and “Fearlessly Face Adversity,” in all capital letters. The entire sign was custom-built and donated to Squadron 21 by construction science junior Kyle Pate.

The Corps of Cadets is a large and diverse program comprised of several units or outfits, each with unique traits, according to its website. Pate said the words symbolize the meaning behind Squadron 21 Hellcats, his outfit within the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M, whose motto is “Death Before Dishonor,” according to its Instagram.

Pate serves as Squadron 21’s finance sergeant and career readiness sergeant, and his parents have a small craftsmanship business, engraving water bottles, glass, plastic or metal with seven different lasers, he said. International studies senior and Squadron 21 Commanding Officer Melina Peters said Pate approached her with the desire to create a new sign for Squadron 21’s hallway several months ago.

“I thought it would be cool, but we already had a few signs in the hallway, so I wasn’t really sure what else we could possibly use,” Peters said. “And then I was thinking near the end of last semester … ‘Well, what if we created something that as the freshmen get through the different phases of freshman year, it can be kind of symbolic of them getting through that phase and they can kind of hang something up in the hallway?’”

Pate took Peters’ idea, and with the help of his family, created the sign this summer after pouring 60 hours into it, he said. On Sept. 2, right before A&M’s first football game of the season, members and family of Squadron 21 arrived bright and early to campus for the outfit’s first barbeque of the year — where Pate decided to have an unveiling ceremony after keeping his creation a surprise from most people, he said. Pate said he covered the sign with black tarps in front of the Corps Arches at The Quad, and after the crowd had gathered, he pulled them off.

“I pulled the sheets off pretty early … I just told them, ‘Hey, I’ve been working on something special for you guys, this is all for you guys,’ because that’s really how I felt the whole time,” Pate said. “I wanted to make it for them, not for me or anyone else. And I wanted to show them how much I’ve really enjoyed being in this outfit and how much I’ve taken away from it … they were really surprised, everyone was pretty blown away.”

Pictures just don’t do the sign justice, Peters said.

“We just took some pictures of the sign and Pate explained to the freshmen what the definition of a Hellcat was, and to the parents,” Peters said. “Everyone was just super excited about it … the parents all got to meet each other and kind of bond over something almost, especially for the new freshman who are joining our outfit.”

The sign mainly serves for the freshmen of Squadron 21, as throughout the year, they will “earn” each part of the definition of a Hellcat, Peters said. Pate came up with the idea that each sign would be hung below the next, starting with “Fearlessly Face Adversity,” Peters said, which is the phase they’re currently in. Next will be “Strive For Greatness,” and the last to hang up is “Humbly Serve Others,” Peters said.

“I’d say it’s a big motivator for the fish because they get to be the ones to hang up the sign,” Peters said. “And then it’s also a reminder for all the upperclassmen because you get to watch the fish hang it up. Even though it’s a new sign this year, it kind of puts you back in the shoes of the fish and how much it meant to you each time you passed into a new phase and you’ve realized all the different things you’ve learned and how different you are now.”
Pate’s father, James, graduated from A&M in 1995, and is largely to thank for Pate’s love of the school since his family grew up going to games together, he said. Although his journey to getting into A&M and joining the Corps was long, Pate said he feels blessed every day to be here.

“I made [the sign] in mind of the Hellcats before me that I didn’t know, the Hellcats that I know now and the Hellcats to come in the future,” Pate said. “There’s been something special in this outfit, something different. I wanted to do something special and give back to them. I made it with the intention for it to be here when I come back someday and I’m an old man and I’m showing my kids and my grandkids, ‘Hey, I made this when I was a kid.’”

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About the Contributor
Anna Deardorff
Anna Deardorff, Special Sections Editor
Anna is a communication senior from Frisco, minoring in journalism. Anna is the Special Sections Editor of Maroon Life Magazine for spring of 2024.
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