The Ross Volunteers Firing Squad presents arms after the 21-gun salute at Muster in Reed Arena on Friday, April 21, 2023.
The Ross Volunteers Firing Squad presents arms after the 21-gun salute at Muster in Reed Arena on Friday, April 21, 2023.
Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

‘Muster is stronger when everybody’s there’

100 years of names called on campus, tradition returns to Reed Arena

Marked on April 21 every year, Muster brings together thousands to celebrate and remember loved ones as a part of the Aggie Family — honoring approximately 1,400 late Aggies in 2024. 

Started in the 1870s and ‘80s, the Corps of Cadets hosted campus field days on the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, which over the years and during the world wars evolved into a memorial for those who were absent. In the early 1920s, The Association of Former Students encouraged all A&M Clubs to hold April 21 meetings and parties; these spread around the U.S. and elsewhere in the ’20s and ’30s, according to The Association of Former Students website. 

The first Muster on the Texas A&M College Station campus was held in Guion Hall in 1924 and has been hosted on campus every year since. With more than 300 locations worldwide now, the ceremony at Reed Arena is the largest Muster in the world and largest ceremony on the A&M campus. 

However, the most well-known Aggie Muster was held in 1942 during World War II on the island of Corregidor in the Philippines. 

After news headlines broke of the Aggies holding Muster under fire during Japan’s siege of the island, more than 500 Aggie Musters worldwide honored the Aggies of Corregidor the next year, according to the The Association of Former Students website. On Muster day in 1946, over 100 Aggies who served in the Pacific theater returned to Corregidor to honor the men of the 1942 Muster. In 2015, a memorial was dedicated on the island in the Philippines in honor of the Aggies who defended Corregidor and Bataan during World War II and those who Mustered there in 1942 and 1946.

Leading up to Muster, there are opportunities to learn about the individuals being honored and the 50-year reunion class being welcomed back. Lining the Memorial Student Center Flag Room, the Reflections Display is open to all until April 21 to look at memorabilia and remember some of those being honored at the Campus Roll Call. The Camaraderie Barbecue, held April 19 this year at Aggie Park, welcomes students to visit with the Class of 1974 and offers food and entertainment from the Aggie Wranglers, Fish Drill Team and Yell Leaders. 

As one of the program executives, Josh Cannon said when helping put together the student-run ceremony, the Muster Committee’s main goal is to make sure families can focus on themselves, their grief and their loved one on the night of. With 2024 marking 100 years of names being called on campus, the aerospace engineering junior said he believes A&M traditions like Muster distinguish A&M from other universities. 

“It’s always said that every Aggie’s life begins with a ‘Howdy’ and ends with a ‘Here,’ and that’s because of Muster,” Cannon said. “A lot of universities have the fun traditions, the fun spirit, but they don’t have that same level of care and attention for each and every single student. Muster is one of those cornerstones that really sets the basis for A&M tradition and why A&M is so special. It shows the love and care that this place has for every single one of our students and how special each Aggie’s life is and how many people they touch, spread their legacy, too.”

Biomedical sciences senior Avery DeWolf said this tradition is what the culture of A&M is all about and why the Aggie family truly is a family. To honor someone and their contributions, DeWolf said it’s important to understand the impact of showing up for the families — some who have told her how much it means to them — and for them to look up in the stands and see that people cared to come and remember their loved ones.

“Muster is the epitome of what it means to be an Aggie,” DeWolf said. “There is truly no other place in the world where we’re all afforded the privilege of remembrance by people who don’t even know us. I think that’s just the most beautiful thing. Muster itself is just based on the bonds of Aggies, you know, coming back and celebrating your time at A&M, also remembering those that have passed. Muster is just truly the epitome of all the Aggie core values and the Aggie Spirit in action. I’ve always believed it’s the most tangible representation of the Aggie Spirit, when you see the candles being lit and these families and when they look up in the stands and they see all of the student bodies supporting them even though they didn’t know their Aggie.”

DeWolf, the committee chair, said she has had heartfelt and humbling moments with families during her time on the committee and emphasized nothing is needing to be done to prepare, but to just be there and able to honor the others. 

“One day people will show up for your Muster,” DeWolf said. “That’s a beautiful thing to know that when our names are called, there’s going to be someone answering ‘Here’ and even though they might not know us, they’re going to mean it and they’re going to have showed up because we’re Aggies. So I think it’s one of those things where we owe it to the other people to make sure we pass it forward.” 

Marketing junior James Wilkey said Muster is one of A&M’s most honored and valued traditions because of the principle of the Aggie family having each other’s backs. Although he now serves as first sergeant of Company G-1, Wilkey went into his first Muster not knowing what to expect. However, when the room went silent, candles were lit and the Ross Volunteer Company came out and did their 21-gun salute, “I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house,” he said.

As a first-generation Aggie who didn’t understand A&M traditions, Wilkey said attending Muster taught him the Aggie family would take care of him. He said he feels many freshmen since COVID-19 haven’t been brought into the fold on many traditions, and encourages others to embrace Muster. 

“You gotta tell your friends,” Wilkey said. “You gotta bring more people out there and understand the gravity of how important this is because it directly affects it and impacts them too. Muster is stronger when everybody’s there.”

Muster will be held in Reed Arena on April 21 at 7 p.m., and doors open to the public at 5 p.m. Entry is free and parking details can be found on the A&M Transportation Services website.

The 2024 Campus Muster Keynote Speaker is retired Maj. Gen. Tim Green, Class of 1986. The ceremony will feature the Ross Volunteers, Corps of Cadets buglers, president of the university, student body president, The Association of Former Students chair and the Muster Committee. 

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