Hundreds of candles lit, a chorus of voices speaking “Here,” dedicated Ross Volunteers marching solemnly donned in white uniforms and a Roll Call of the names of Aggies who have died in the last year — here are the symbols which honor the fallen during Muster.
The Muster tradition, which began in 1903, is one of the most treasured customs practiced by students at Texas A&M and Aggies around the world. Like most traditions Aggies participate in, the ceremony includes multiple symbols representing different aspects of the tradition.
Following the conclusion of speeches given by the incoming student body president, Muster Speaker and others, the Roll Call is read. Incoming Corps Commander Brad Sauer said despite the solemnity caused by hearing the names of those who have died, it’s an important gesture.
“It is an important way to recognize the Aggies who have come before us. ‘Somber’ would be the best way word for it. Yes, it is a list of names, but everyone knows somebody on that list and someone somewhere will be there to support you,” Sauer said. “It’s a Muster for [the Corps] because one of our guys’ names will be called. Muster helps the healing process.”
As each name is read, Aggies throughout the world will say, “Here.” This specific symbol truly speaks to the idea that once you are an Aggie, you will always be one, said Student Body President-Elect Bobby Brooks, who will give his first speech at the ceremony.
Brooks, who lost a friend in the first few weeks of arriving at A&M, said his first Muster ceremony allowed him to move forward in light of the tragedy.
“When everyone called ‘Here’ — that is when the moment when I came to terms with my friend passing,” Brooks said. “I had seen news articles I had seen the ambulance which took him away. Those things weren’t real to me until he had gone through the same decorum as everyone else. Calling ‘Here’ for my friend was a verbal commitment that he had passed and that he was a cherished friend of mine.”
As each name is called and “Here” is spoken, those participating in Muster will light a candle, one by one, eventually illuminating the entirety of Reed Arena. To actually see a wall of light in the darkness that represents the lives of the Aggies who have died is something that can take your breath away, said incoming MSC President Annie Carnegie.
“The candles definitely stand out to me. I think that visual representation of each individual who is being called is so impactful, and you see it grow throughout the evening,” Carnegie said. “So it’s something that again it’s bringing that individual perspective but also we are also apart of something greater than ourselves. When all of those candles are lit at the end of the ceremony when you see all of those candles lit you can’t really distinguish one from the other. There are all part of that family.”
After each candle is lit, the Ross Volunteers march into Reed Arena to perform a 21-gun salute for the Aggies whose names have been called, spoken for and honored with the lighting of the candle.
“The first time I saw the Ross Volunteers was at my first Silver Taps; seeing them again at my first Muster was huge. Anytime you see those white uniforms, it stirs the emotions. White is the color of angels and heaven, when you are at a ceremony like Muster, that is what you are thinking of,” said Ja’Cory Clark, 2017-2018 Student Senate speaker.
What the symbols speak to is the idea of the community and family built at A&M, Brooks said.
“There is this kind of beauty in celebrating who we are as a culture and as a community,” Brooks said. “That’s something that is absolutely wonderful to me, to know that we all can connect on muster and we can all feel the loss of one and we can all celebrate the life as one together as a group.”