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Weekend of memories

Campus Muster Remembrance Ceremony honors fallen

Published: Monday, April 23, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07


Corry Dobson — THE BATTALION

Family members light candles in memory of their loved ones while softly answering “here” during the Campus Muster Roll Call for the Absent in Reed Arena Saturday evening.

Excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect and selfless service: Texas A&M’s  six core values were the focus of the Campus Muster Ceremony. A capacity crowd of 13,000 packed Reed Arena on Saturday to observe the hallowed tradition and pay respect to fellow Aggies.

“Tonight, one word is our bond. One word gives light to our darkest hour,” former Student Body President Jeff Pickering said during the ceremony. “Tonight, the Spirit that can ne’er be told is told with one word, ‘Here.’”

Pickering invited those in attendance to consider the remarkable times this University is facing.

“This year will forever be defined by three historic moments — joining the Southeastern Conference, reinvigorating our institutional vision of 2020 … and the reopening and rededication of the Memorial Student Center,” Pickering said. “Yet even in these historic times, we come here tonight, knowing that each year there is no greater moment for our University than April 21.”

President R. Bowen Loftin as well as several Muster committee members spoke at the ceremony, as did Otway Denny Jr., Class of 1971 and chairman of the Association of Former Students.

“April 21 is a date dear to the hearts of Aggies everywhere,” Denny said during his address. “It is a time for Aggies to come together, to celebrate our heritage, to rekindle the camaraderie that binds us and to honor those who are no longer with us.”

This year’s Muster Speaker, John Hoyle, Class of 1957 and recipient of three A&M degrees, shared stories of his time at Texas A&M as well as words of comfort to grieving families.

 “Dr. Hoyle impacted the families with the words he said,” said Kelli Kimmey, Muster committee chairwoman. “The memories he made the Class of 1962 relive and the comfort he gave the families made us proud.”

The Class of 1962 was also welcomed home as it celebrated its 50-year class reunion.

Hoyle began his speech by expressing his honor of being this year’s Muster speaker and celebrating the Aggies’ lost lives.

Although Muster is viewed as a somber tradition, whoops and laughter erupted as Hoyle shared memories of time spent at Texas A&M.

“My first time on this campus was not a pretty sight … I looked out across the field and all I saw was cows. I saw cows munching on the grass in front of the administration building. And I looked up and saw this water tower with the skinny, little legs and it said, ‘Welcome to Aggieland,’” Hoyle said. “I was standing there with another buddy as scared as I was …  He turned toward me and said, ‘John, it looks like Sing Sing [a maximum security prison] on the Brazos.’”

Hoyle used his speech to evoke a sense of Aggie pride in those in attendance.

“We’re all Aggies. We like one another. We keep up with one another,” Hoyle said. “And that’s exactly why we are gathered here tonight.”

Then came the iconic Muster tradition, Roll Call for the Absent.

Sophomore construction science major Joel Shillingburg lit a candle for his grandfather, Ernest Shillingburg, Class of 1943.

“My grandfather passed away back in December. At first, it was hard for me since we were so close. But Saturday night was a celebration,” Shillingburg said. “It was a celebration of his life.”

The names of more than 100 Aggies were called at Campus Muster, including 16 current students and those who died while on active military duty.

As each name was called, a relative, spouse or friend lit a candle and voices in the crowd voiced, “Here,” on behalf of the loved one. As more names were called, the candlelight illuminated the Arena, symbolizing the undying flame of the Aggie Spirit.

Muster offered students and former students the opportunity to carry on the legacy of these fallen Aggies.

“Our core values are embraced by the thousands of Aggies who believe that they will make a positive difference in a sometimes-troubled world,” Hoyle said. “So tonight God has given us more time to live and love our family, friends, school and nation. We have been given more time to tell the Aggie story to all who would listen.”

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