Aggie Muster is tonight. By now, hopefully you know that — you’ve seen the posters, or the awareness tables set up around campus, or seen a Muster-related post on Facebook. This year, I’ve had the privilege of serving on the Aggie Muster Committee as a Media Coordinator, along with my partner, Jamie Bennett. Our year has been dedicated to promoting this time-honored tradition so that as many students as possible will fill up Reed Arena tonight. But no video, no poster, no Facebook post can fully convey what this sacred ceremony truly means.
Growing up in an admittedly crazy Aggie family, from a young age I thought I had a grasp on what this “spirit that can ne’er be told” was all about. I’m a third generation Aggie — my grandfather was an Ag; my parents were Ags; a majority of my aunts, uncles and cousins are Ags; and currently I and my two brothers, Hunter and Heath, are enrolled here. My childhood seasons followed a maroon clock — fall was filled with road trips to College Station for football games, spring breaks followed the basketball team and summers were spent at Aggie sports camps. You get the picture — we bled maroon. Or at least I thought I did.
The biggest, most passionate and faithful Aggie I’ve ever known was my mother, Sandy Heidtke. She was more proud of this school than I felt was often necessary, and she loved this school with an unmatched fervor. Her greatest passions were three things: faith, family and Texas A&M University. I knew she loved A&M — she made that very clear to everyone she met, but growing up, I never fully grasped why.
In June 2012, my mother was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma, and was told by doctors she had six months to live. My mom was incredibly strong, and beat the hell outta that initial prognosis by fighting for my family, fighting to bring glory to the Lord and fighting to make it through two more Fightin’ Texas Aggie Football seasons. Throughout her battle, our whole family was flooded with love and support from the Texas A&M community all around the nation. As I saw so many people rally around her, classmates she hadn’t seen in years, I began to get a clearer picture of what it meant to be a part of this university.
In January of last year, my mom passed away. My twin and I were high school seniors, but my older brother Heath was a sophomore here at the time, and for that reason her name was on the Campus Muster Roll Call last April. By that point, I had been accepted and knew I was coming to A&M that fall. I thought, from growing up in an Aggie-obsessed family, that I knew what to expect out of the night of Muster. I thought it would be a nice ceremony, a touching memorial.
But sitting in the arena with my brothers and my dad, surrounded by thousands, I for the first time felt the full depth of what it really means to be an Aggie. The fact that Reed Arena was completely packed, full of students who, chances are, did not know the individuals behind the Roll Call names, took my breath away and brought chills down my spine. But there they were, supporting my family in what was our darkest time and standing for all of the families and friends of those who had lost a loved one.
As our Muster Committee Chair, Mari Quiros, said this year, “More than anything, Muster is a celebration of a life lived, not simply a life lost.” I felt the truth of those words as I sat in the darkness of Reed Arena surrounded by the soft call of “here,” echoing throughout the room, sure and steady. It was incredibly powerful, and something I will never forget. Despite the fact that the reason we were there was because my wonderful mom had passed just a few months before, my heart didn’t hurt as much when I looked around in the dim candlelight and saw what the Aggie family really is — and got a beautiful glimpse into why my mother was so deeply in love with this university.
Muster is truly the epitome of what it means to be an Aggie. It is not only our duty but our privilege to fill Reed Arena and be there for the families of those Aggies who have gone before. Every name on the Roll Call was someone just like you and me, who walked on this campus and figured out this crazy thing that is college, that is life. Every name is someone’s mom, dad, sister, brother, grandparent and friend. Every name is a life that touched others, a life that was loved. And one day down the road, those names will be ours.
Aggie Muster is for everyone. It is honor, it is remembrance, it is hope and it is a celebration. I know what it meant to my family, and I know what it will mean to those who fill the floor of Reed this Tuesday. “There’s a spirit can ne’er be told…” and it can’t be told — it has to be experienced. So come out and experience it. This is what it means to be an Aggie. This is what it means to answer “here.”
Hannah Heidtke is an English freshman who serves on the 2015 Muster Committee