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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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‘For every Aggie, there will always be a “Here”’

Photo by Ishika Samant

Family and friends of Aggies on the Muster roll call hold a candle in honor of their name on Friday, April 21, 2023 at Reed Arena.

The Aggie family solemnly gathered in Reed Arena to honor 144 fallen Aggies during the 2023 Muster ceremony.

Marked annually on April 21, the Muster remembrance ceremony celebrates the lives of fallen Aggies who have passed since the last ceremony. The celebration embodies the Aggie Spirit, and Aggies all around the world hold ceremonies on the same day to commemorate those lost, with the largest ceremony being held on campus.

Like past years, the Class of 1973 reminisced of their times on campus for their 50-year class reunion; in the evening, they united alongside other former and current students with Texas A&M faculty, staff and relatives of honorees for the somber Muster celebration.

This year’s roll call honored Aggies from the Class of 2025 to the Class of 1944. Whether they were relatives, friends or strangers of the honored, event attendees softly answered their call with “Here.”

Muster Committee Awareness Executive Addison Blakemore, a biology senior, officially commenced the ceremony with her acknowledgment.

“What an honor it is to witness only a fraction of the Aggie family gathered here this April 21 Muster,” Blakemore said. “As Reed Arena fills with a unique array of life stories and experiences, what unites us all, this evening and every evening, is the reach of the Aggie Spirit.”

Blakemore continued, later reciting an excerpt of a poem by Greg Fink, Class of 2008, about the bold loyalty and perseverance of Aggies on Muster.

Muster Committee Chair Rachel Greve, a biomedical engineering graduate student, delivered her opening remarks for the ceremony.

“Tonight we gather to uphold a beloved and timeless Aggie tradition,” Greve said. “Tonight, we are joined by Musters all across the world, all with the same purpose: to softly yet firmly answer ‘Here’ for our fellow Aggies and find unity in our time of bereavement. This roll call symbolizes that every Aggie is important, and their life will be eternally remembered.”

Greve welcomed the Class of 1973 back to Aggieland, assuring them that the Aggie Spirit they nurtured during their time on campus is still alive and well. Greve thanked current and former students for attending the event, whether it was their first time or one of many.

“To our honored families, know that you are not experiencing this loss alone,” Greve said. “Though you may not see us in this darkness, thousands of Aggies stand alongside of you in solemn reverence to carry the memory of your loved one on for perpetuity. I hope some of the shadows cast by your loss will abate with the lighting of every candle here this evening. We are trying to light the happiness and positivity of your loved one’s memory. Tonight, we’ll pay homage to your loved one once more — gone, but most certainly, not forgotten.”

University President M. Katherine Banks said she believes Muster is the most moving and meaningful of all Aggie traditions, reflecting on the importance of the event.

“It’s a powerful reminder of the Aggie Spirit and the deep sense of community that exists at Texas A&M,” Banks said. “We gather on behalf of those who are no longer with us to reflect on their memory, to celebrate their lives, to tell their stories and most of all, to remember. Aggies are never forgotten. Muster reminds us we share a lifelong bond that is unbreakable and eternal.”

Banks said in times of hardship or concord, the unifying bond of the Aggie Spirit is always present, connecting Aggies to each other.

“Because of Muster, we stand not just for ourselves, but for those who came before us, and we stand with the families and friends left behind,” Banks said. “To those of you who have lost an Aggie, my heart is with you. Please know that the Aggie family is here for you, now and always. While we may be in the midst of grieving, tonight we celebrate the great lives well lived.”

Banks said for every Aggie, there will always be a “Here.”

Following President Banks’ remarks, Student Body President Case Harris took the stage to enact one of his final responsibilities as president. Harris began his speech by sharing the story of General James Earl Rudder, former university president and Class of 1932, who led his rangers to climb the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc during D-Day in World War II.

“Honor, respect and inspiration … Muster is the culmination of these three ideals,” Harris said. “Ideals that I believe are at the center and foundation of [A&M], and values that define our culture. During this Muster ceremony, we honor the Aggies that have passed. We honor the brave men and women who have embraced their duty to serve their communities and their loved ones.”

Harris said offered his deepest condolences to the families of those who were being honored.

“We are one in spirit with them, and we are one in spirit with you tonight,” Harris said. “Aggie Muster is a day in Aggieland truly like no other. There is no day when our love for our university shines so bright, and our care for our fellow Aggies runs so deep.  From right here in College Station to places all around the globe, the Aggie Spirit is in full force tonight.”

Texas A&M Foundation President and CEO Lt. Col Tyson Voelkel, Class of 1996, opened his remarks as the keynote speaker for this year’s ceremony by thanking the Muster Committee, the Fightin’ Aggie Texas Band, the Century Singers, the Womens Chorus, Singing Cadets, the Ross Volunteers and the Ross Volunteers firing squad.

Sharing what Muster means to him, Tyson said three symbols came to mind.

“First, the candle,” Tyson said. “Each one tells a life story with a flickering flame — a reminder of how precious life is. Second, the Aggie Ring — a symbol of merit, belonging and values. You earn the ring and you spend your life trying to live up to what it represents. Third — an amazing, beautiful symbol of freedom — the flag of the United States of America. A symbol of freedom of opportunity known around the world.”

Tyson shared the story of his late daughter, Lily Voelkel, born deaf and blind, who spent most of her life in a hospital ICU while recovering from multiple open-heart surgeries. Tyson said Lily identified people by touch, and when he visited her during his night shifts in the hospital, she would feel for his Aggie Ring.

“A&M is unique in the world, partly because of traditions like Muster,” Tyson said. “Since our founding in 1876, this institution stood for more than just earning a degree.”

Honor, hard work, sacrifice and duty were instilled in A&M since the beginning of its inception, Tyson said.

Tyson said the Aggie way is hard to explain but easier to feel.

“This is a university that means so much because it stands for so much,” Tyson said. “It’s a place where we love our country, where we love our families and we love our freedoms. This is a place where we are free to follow our faith and strive for excellence. We live with a flame in our hearts, rings on our fingers and flags flying proudly above.”

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About the Contributor
Ana Renfroe
Ana Renfroe, Head News Editor
Ana Renfroe, Class of 2025, is a journalism junior with a minor in professional writing from Bryan, Texas. Ana has served as The Battalion's head news editor from May 2023 to May 2024. Previously, she was the assistant news editor for the spring 2023 semester. Ana has covered breaking news, politics, and more. She typically covered the Texas A&M System and university administration, Texas and Bryan-College Station politics, student government and more. Ana previously hosted and produced episodes of The Batt Signal, The Battalion's news podcast. Additionally, she was a copyeditor and feature writer for Maroon Life magazine, and helped contribute to the Aggieland Yearbook.
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