Opinion Silver Taps

“So how long does this go on for normally?”

“Can anyone politely explain the significance of the gun firing and the marching?”

“Why are they playing taps? Did someone die?”

Silver Taps is my favorite tradition at Texas A&M. It’s a time where students gather in silence to honor Aggies who passed away in the previous month. Much to many Aggies’ dismay, the above comments demonstrate how many did not observe this aspect of Silver Taps during last week’s simulcast. I could not help but watch in abject horror as questions and comments flooded the live chat. Sadly, needless bickering, constant inquiries and attempts to quiet the rabble undermined the respect Victoria Anette Walker deserved. As Aggies, we can and must be better in the future.

Election night is the same day as next month’s Silver Taps, so let’s answer some of the common questions to avoid two disasters in one day. Silver Taps is an approximately 30-minute tradition. The Ross Volunteers – A&M’s honor guard – march at a slow cadence, perform the 21 gun salute and play a unique rendition of “Taps” to honor Aggies who passed away in the prior month. Instead of the traditional Taps, the buglers play “Silver Taps” (hence the tradition’s name) from atop the Academic Building.

I still get chills and goosebumps when the Ross Volunteers fire the 21 gun salute. Instead of taking to the comments to express your awe, use these moments of silence to sit back and bask in the experience with other Aggies. Afterward, feel free to talk to current students or old Ags about Silver Taps’ history and significance. Better yet, you have an open reservoir of almost infinite knowledge called Google to help you learn more about Silver Taps.

The most significant disrespect during Silver Taps was the debate over whether the ceremony was live or recorded. For now, Traditions Council – the organization responsible for hosting the ceremony – is not holding Silver Taps live this semester. Traditions Council, the organization responsible for hosting Silver Taps, tweeted on Oct. 7 that they were revisiting the current format. However, the format in which Silver Taps takes place shouldn’t matter. Some commenters were shockingly more concerned with being right and sniping at each other than participating in one of A&M’s oldest traditions. Whether intentional or not, the inane debate distracted many from honoring Victoria and demonstrated one reason why students should remain silent during Silver Taps.

In sharp contrast to this month’s ceremony, “here” almost exclusively filled the September 2020 Silver Taps live chat. Aggies say “here” during another tradition, Muster, to signify that those who have passed will always be present in spirit. We also use this expression to portray sympathy and solidarity with those who have lost a loved one. As such, while we have not used it during a Silver Taps ceremony in years past, it is still applicable and respectful.

More importantly, we need to find a way forward. Fortunately for A&M, they can turn off the live chat for Silver Taps to ensure people tuning in can watch without public comments, just like with the in-person version. Removing the live chat can help Aggies avoid any vitriol during Silver Taps and ensure we all focus on paying respect to those who have passed away.

The solution that many students want, however, is to resume in-person Silver Taps. All we can do at this point is hope they find a way to at least partially return to in-person ceremonies.

If anything, this month’s Silver Taps demonstrates a need to better inform students about the time-honored traditions we hold dear at A&M. We should establish expectations and etiquette to ensure our fallen Aggies receive their due respect. At Silver Taps, we don’t need to speak to one another because there’s a spirit that can ne’er be told. 

Caleb Powell is a sophomore biomedical engineering major and columnist for The Battalion. His column is typically published online every other Wednesday when not in the Thursday newspaper.

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