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

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

The Battalion

Opinion: ‘We’ll march in behind the band’

 
 

Aggies do many things well, and they do many things poorly, but they do nothing so often and so forcefully as they treasure remembrance. Other universities might be better at playing football or funding academics, but no one out-remembers Aggies.
If you take any three traditions with you when you leave this place, make it these: the Aggie Ring, Silver Taps and Muster.
They’re the same thing, really, when you boil it down, because they force us to remember. I’ll remember my ring every time it stares up at me – on my wedding day, in a job interview, on the day I retire, on the day I die. I’ll remember Silver Taps every time a student passes away – the way the 12th Man’s silence on Academic Plaza rings louder than its yells in Kyle Field, the knowledge that the College Station skyline will change but as long as students live and die the bugle will play Silver Taps.
But more than anything I’ll remember Muster, because one day I know Muster will remember me. To be an Aggie is to remember, and to remember is to consider death. There’s nobility in that. Don’t shy from it. Remembrance isn’t a stated Aggie core value, but loyalty, respect, selfless service – aren’t they parts of the same whole? Mortality can be heavy, but don’t step back from it. Lean in. Be good at saying goodbye and be proud of it. Muster doesn’t teach us how to think about death, but it makes sure it’s in the conversation.
Consider the opening lines to the Last Corps Trip, a poem traditionally read at Muster ceremonies the world over, written by P.H. Duval, Class of 1951: “It was Judgment Day in Aggieland, and tenseness filled the air. All knew there was a trip at hand, but not a soul knew where.”
It’s a religious poem, but I’m not asking for religious consideration. We know there is a trip at hand. Many of our classmates have taken it. Even if you aren’t sure where that trip leads – be it heaven, hell or none of the above – it’s a disservice to the memories of fallen Aggies to ignore that the trip – death – exists. “No need for us to tarry here, deciding upon their fates.”
I regularly went to Muster in my hometown of Katy, raised as I was by a pair of Aggies, Class of 1976 and Class of 1979. But either they didn’t explain or I didn’t listen (hint: it’s the second one) because I didn’t get it. Not until I was here. Not until I sat in the dark and listened to the clip of Ross Volunteer steps on Reed Arena floor. Not until I heard the first one. I don’t remember her name, but the words that came after burned me: “Class of 2014.” And my classmates said, “Here,” but I didn’t. I sat, stone-faced, and felt my limits stretch. I lowered my head and hoped the darkness was deep enough to allow me to pretend my eyes were dry. Classmates die. I knew it before that moment, but I hadn’t learned it.
Another reason to attend Muster, if you need something more practical: We’re going to graduate. The Musters in our towns are going to need leaders, and we can’t expect to drive the tradition in the places we settle if we don’t attend now and experience it at its grandest. Erosion of traditions and customs happens quicker than we sometimes think. A few decades ago an all-male A&M was tradition, and two years ago a one-Heisman A&M was tradition. The yells that our grandparents know differ from the ones we know.
In this way remembrance, which constitutes our traditions, also forms the mechanism that keeps them around. It doesn’t happen on accident, so go to Muster and be a part of the student body that remembers.
Wear a tie when you go, or even a suit if you have one. You can’t take it too seriously. The underclassmen, the freshmen-to-be and the families of fallen Aggies will notice the effort you take. More importantly, they’ll notice your presence and your remembrance. At the end of the line, we’ll all take one last trip. Do your part to make that special for the Ags remembered Monday.
“And the Colonel of the Cadet Corps said, as he stiffly took the stand, ‘It’s just another Corps trip, boys. We’ll march in behind the band.'”

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