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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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Ceremony honors fallen students

Silver Taps
Photo by File
Silver Taps

Silver Taps, a ceremony honoring students who have died recently, will be held today at 10:30 p.m. 

Holly Rine, Traditions Council chair, said Silver Taps is usually held on the first Tuesday of the month as needed, but this month’s ceremony was postponed because the first Tuesday of the month was the second day of classes. 

“Working in close coordination with Student Assistance Services, in an effort to raise attendance rates it was elected to hold the ceremony on the second Tuesday because of the overwhelming stress that is associated with the first week of school,” Rhine said.

As part of the tradition, students quietly gather in Academic Plaza around 10 p.m. to honor the students who have died since the last ceremony. After campus lights are dimmed and the chimes of Albritton Tower have sounded, the Ross Volunteer firing squad begins a slow march towards the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross. 

After three volleys of seven shots, a special rendition of Taps called “Silver Taps” concludes the ceremony. 

The Silver Taps tradition began with the first ceremony in 1898, held in honor of Lawrence Sullivan Ross. 

“[Ross] was beloved by all of the cadets at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas and they wanted to honor him as much as they could,” said Rachel Thompson, vice chair of social activities and events for Traditions Council. “Being the cadets that they were, this resulted in a ceremony very similar to what is conducted at the funerals of American soldiers. This origin is why Silver Taps is held in Academic Plaza, because this is where the statue of Sully is found.”

The families of the students being honored are seated for the ceremony in front of the Sul Ross statue, said Erin Posey, biomedical sciences senior and Silver Taps committee chair.

“At 10:30 p.m. a slow cadence can be heard from the northside of campus, gradually growing louder,” Posey said. “The Ross Volunteers appear out of the seeming darkness and stop in front of the families. They fire off [three volleys of seven shots] in honor of the fallen students.”

The special rendition of Taps that follows has never been written down and is passed down from bugler to bugler at A&M, Posey said.

“Taps is played three times, once to the north, once to the south, and once to the west – but never to the east because it is said the sun will never rise on that Aggie again,” Posey said. “Then the ceremony is over and the students disperse just as silently as they arrived as the bell tower chimes in the darkness.”

Posey said the first Silver Taps of the fall semester generally has the highest student attendance. 

“Many students will attend the first Silver Taps and then attendance steadily drops off as the workload of the semester sets in,” Posey said. “The biggest impact students can have on Silver Taps is with their presence at every ceremony.”

Thompson said for her the best part of the Silver Taps tradition is showing the families that their students were loved.

“It is a very difficult situation for these families, and they will never truly heal, but I believe that this ceremony shows them that they are not alone in their grieving, that they have the support and love of the Aggie Family whenever they need it and that their child will never be forgotten,” Thompson said.

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