When I walked into my first Muster ceremony as a high school senior on April 21, 2015, I had no idea what to expect.
I was invited to the Comal County A&M Club’s Muster ceremony because I was one of their scholarship recipients. I remember thinking that I must just be going to some kind of club meeting or reunion - probably a barbecue or something (I was very wrong).
As I sat in that room - a first-generation Aggie who knew nothing about A&M’s traditions - I struggled to understand what was happening.
By the time the Roll Call began, I had determined that the names being called were those of Aggies who had passed away, but I still didn’t understand why “Here” rang out in unison after each name. I didn’t understand why this was an event that the club would invite their scholarship recipients to, and I definitely didn’t understand why Muster was so important to everyone there that night.
Now, as a senior in college preparing to attend my fourth Campus Muster ceremony, I get it.
While working for The Battalion, I’ve had the privilege of photographing Campus Muster on two occasions, and this year will be the third. Being in such close proximity to the reunion class and the families gathered to answer for a loved one they’ve lost allowed me to see Muster from a new perspective.
Aggie Muster is so much more than just a gathering. It is a time to remember the past, to look forward to the future and to celebrate the lives of fellow Aggies who have passed away.
At the Campus Muster, a speaker will address the crowd and tell stories about the lives of students in 1969. The members of the reunion class get to remember their time on campus and grow in camaraderie, both at the ceremony itself and at the Muster BBQ held earlier in the day.
Later, Roll Call for the Absent begins. When the names of Aggies who passed away in the last year are called, their family and friends answer “Here” and light a candle. This serves as a reminder that those who we have lost are still present in spirit.
When the Roll Call ends, Reed Arena is silent except for the sound of the Ross Volunteers marching in a slow cadence. There, in between the stage and those seated on the floor level, the RVs render a 21-gun salute. After Taps is played, the ceremony is dismissed.
At Muster - whether it be on campus or at one of the hundreds of ceremonies held across the world - the Aggie Spirit is fully alive.
With every tear-soaked face made visible by candlelight, with every “Here” whispered by all those gathered and with every candle lit, the Aggie Spirit becomes more evident.
I understand now that maybe the reason the Comal County A&M Club invited me - a high school senior - to their Muster ceremony, was because they wanted to extend to me that piece of the Aggie Spirit and show me that I hadn’t just picked a college to attend; I’d found a family that would be at my side from the first time I said “Howdy” to the last time my name is called and my friends and family say “Here.”
The 2019 Campus Muster ceremony will celebrate the lives of about 140 people who have passed away in the last year. You may not have known them personally, but they are family just the same.
I encourage each of you to join me in Reed Arena at 7 p.m. to answer “Here” for the Aggies we’ve lost, just as future Aggies will for you someday.
Cassie Stricker is an agricultural communications and journalism senior and photo chief for The Battalion.