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Students honor fallen Aggies

Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07

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FILE PHOTO

Family members of fallen Aggies light candles while softly calling “Here” during Muster Ceremony.

Texas A&M University is known for its loud, enthusiastic traditions, like Midnight Yell and the Aggie Band. But there stands a softer, more somber side to our University dedicated to remembering fallen Aggies and offering closure to remaining students, former students and family.

“Silver Taps is one of the most sacred and important traditions at A&M and is one of the main things that holds the Aggie Spirit together,” said graduate student and Traditions Council member Alex Coleman. “No other University in the world honors students this way.”

The ceremony is on the first Tuesday of the month in remembrance of students who have died the previous month.

The first Silver Taps occurred in 1898 in honor of Lawrence Sullivan Ross, former governor of Texas and President of A&M College.

At 10:15 p.m., all lights on campus are turned off and Albritton Tower begins to chime hymns. Silently, students gather around the Sul Ross statue in Academic Plaza. At 10:30 p.m., the Ross Volunteer Firing Squad marches and fires three rifle volleys, then buglers play Silver Taps three times from the dome of Academic Building: once to the north, south, then west. It is not played to the east because the sun will never rise again on the fallen Aggies.

“It’s very important to be at every single one. There’s no reason not to go — it’s a great way to be in the Aggie family,” said senior accounting major and Yell Leader Drew Nelson.

A flag is flown over the State Capitol building in honor of the fallen Aggie, then is given to the family, along with a bronzed shell casing from the 21-gun salute and a Benjamin Knox print of “Silver Taps.”

Coleman said seeing the families at Silver Taps is a moving experience. “If you have ever seen the face of a mother when she steps into Academic Plaza and sees it full of students, you would never miss a Silver Taps,” Coleman said. “It is a beautiful mix of awe and grief. They suddenly realize what the Aggie family is.”

Echo Taps is a tradition that mourns a fallen comrade or former member of the Corps of Cadets. The day the Corps is notified about a death, an announcement is made stating an Echo Taps ceremony is performed that night.

At 10 p.m., the Corps gathers on the Quad, wearing their midnight uniforms as a symbol of respect. Two buglers play Taps and one bugler plays a phrase of Taps. During the pauses in the song, the other bugler echoes the same phrase, thus the name Echo Taps. Everyone is welcome to attend.

The tradition of Aggie Muster on April 21 was deemed official in 1922, but the history of the event stretches back some 41 years prior. On June 26, 1883, a group of Aggies gathered together to reminisce and celebrate the memories of their college years. This became habit, and by 1903, the gathering evolved into a full on celebration, complete with field games and banquets.

Muster is celebrated in more than 400 places with the largest ceremony taking place in Reed Arena.

 Campus Muster, dedicated to the current 50-year class, is an all-day event, beginning with a special program for former students that includes tours of the campus. At noon, current and former students gather in Academic Plaza for the Camaraderie Barbeque that recalls the tradition of the original Muster celebration: bringing Aggies together. That evening, the Muster ceremony consists of an address by a special speaker, the reading of poems and a Roll Call for the Absent. During Roll Call, as the names are read, a friend or family member answers “Here” and a candle is lit, symbolizing that fallen Aggies forever remain.

For Nelson, Aggie Muster is a calming ceremony.“We all know that one day our names will be called. That’s a very comforting feeling to have,” Nelson said.

Silver Taps, Echo Taps and Aggie Muster remain prominent symbols of unity within the Aggie Network.

 “It really separates us from other schools,” said senior international studies major and Corps Commander Marquis Alexander. “It’s a way of honoring the lives of other Aggies, not just remembering them but recognizing that they’re still with us.”

 

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