The last time Henry Goodwin, Class of 1966, saw many of his A&M classmates was during their last Corp of Cadets final review before marching off to war.
“It was like our group knew and sensed what our destiny would be in terms of the role we would play in Vietnam and Korea and a number of trouble spots in the world, but many of us would never see each other again or come to campus again,” Goodwin said. “Normally you would just march across the field in one line, and our entire Class of ’66 put our arms around each other from one side of the drill field to the other and marched across the field together. I don’t think that had ever been done before or since.”
Each Muster, a class of Aggies celebrates its 50th class reunion with a barbeque, class photos, tours and banquets. At this year’s Muster, Goodwin’s class will reunite with old friends and remember those who are unable to attend as well as those who did not return from war.
“The Class of 1966 at Texas A&M and the Class of 1966 at West Point shared the tragic distinction of having the highest number of casualties in Vietnam,” said Henry Goodwin, Class of 1966. “The icon of our losses was Joe Bush, who was our head yell leader.”
Nardie Vine, class agent and member of the Class of 1966, said Joe was one of the finest Aggies he had ever met.
“Joe never met a stranger — he was the kind who’d give you the shirt off his back if you needed it,” Vine said. “If you cut him he’d bleed maroon blood. He was active in activities at the YMCA, that’s where I had the most contact with him and in some of the activities at the MSC. He was involved in SCONA.”
Vine said over 90 percent of the Class of 1966 are veterans, and in addition to Joe, there were 13 other Aggies who did not return from the Vietnam War. At that time, the Class of 1966 was the last class to be required to be in the Corps of Cadets.
“The Corps of Cadets and military training was compulsory for two years, and then you had an option of becoming a civilian student or staying in the Corps of Cadets, and if you decided to stay, you also had an option to pursue a commission in one of the services,” Goodwin said. “Or you could remain in the corps and not pursue a commission and be a ‘D&C,’ which stands for ‘Drill and Ceremony.’”
As the class president and a D&C, Narciso Cano said he was grateful to have the opportunity and honor of experiencing Texas A&M’s traditions and culture.
“When I was a freshman at my first midnight yell practice, there was a cold front coming in and light snowflakes were filtering in the floodlights of Kyle Field,” Cano said. “It has been decades since I have done a yell practice, but I remember saying, ‘My God, is this Hispanic kid from the west side of San Antonio really here?’ That was the feeling from that yell practice 54 years ago.”
It was the rigorous preparation from being in the Class of 1966 Corps of Cadets that prepared him not only for battle, but for the real world, Goodwin said.
“I think that most of us that went through that process would tell you that those four years are a defining factor in the way we lived our lives and taught us what leadership was,” Goodwin said. “We learned how to follow and ultimately how to lead. When I was in Korea, I was a company commander when I was still a second lieutenant — which is unusual — and it wasn’t because I was any special guy, I had just been better prepared.”
For Vine, the 50-year reunion will be a wonderful opportunity to relive old memories with fellow troops and to honor those who could not be there, as well as what the Class of 1966 stood for.
“There are lots of strong emotions remembering the good times we had here at ‘Sing-Sing on the Brazos,’ and just being proud to be part of this class and the patriots who were and are the members of the Class of ’66,” Vine said.
Goodwin said the 50-year reunion allows him to connect with people he has not seen since they were in school.
“I will be reunited with one of my classmates named Jim Clark, and I haven’t seen or heard Jim’s voice in 50 years, and when we connected prior to the reunion about Jim coming down because of the reunion, there was no time span,” Goodwin said. “The 50 years collapsed because of the years we shared here and the rapport you build during tough times.