Madam Speaker, I may not exactly be the biggest Texas A&M fan around. And, I possibly ruffle a few maroon feathers from time-to-time poking fun at the Aggies. But, one thing I can say without a doubt is that there is no school known to man that has as loyal a following and dedication to tradition as Texas A&M. Trust me I know, I hear about every little quirky thing they do from my friend and former case manager, Patti Chapman--or "Aggie Mama" as her license plate proudly reads, and from Congressman Louie Gohmert from East Texas, with his maroon boots adorned with the Aggie logo.
You can always spot an Aggie, either from their personalized license plate, their maroon pickup adorned with A&M stickers, or the ring--don't forget the ring! And I have yet to meet an Aggie that doesn't work in to any conversation that you are having that they are an Aggie and what year they graduated, especially if you are not one. But with all their whooping and hissing, comes one tradition that I have the greatest respect for--Aggie Muster.
Last week, on April 21st, Aggies all around the world paid tribute to those that have gone before them. This time honored tradition began in June of 1883 as a reunion of sorts of former students reliving their college days from the ball field to the battlefield. By 1889 it had evolved into a celebration of Texas Independence, and in 1922 it became the official ceremony it is today that is held every year on April 21st--San Jacinto Day--the day Texas won its independence in 1836--to account for every Aggie around the world by honoring the "Roll Call of the Absent."
According to tradition, "if there is an A&M man in one hundred miles of you, you are expected to get together, eat a little, and live over the days you spent at the A&M College of Texas." The most famous example of this edict was the Muster of 1942 under the command of General George Moore during World War II. Amid fierce enemy fire, General Moore and 25 fellow Aggies mustered in the trenches on Corregidor in the Philippines. A war correspondent observed the make-shift ceremony and the world was introduced to the Aggie spirit.
During times of war, Muster is especially poignant. Texas A&M has produced more officers in the United States military than even West Point. It has the distinction, other than West Point, of having more Medal of Honor winners than any other university in the United States. When General George Patton was in Europe going to combat in the Third Army, he made a comment about the Texas Aggies and the soldiers that he had under his command. He said, "Give me an army of West Point graduates and I will win a battle. You give me a handful of Texas Aggies, and I will win the war."
The Aggies' long tradition of duty and service to our great nation dates back their beginning, to the days when A&M was an all-male military academy. Texas A&M trained nearly 4000 troops during World War I and over 20,000 Aggies served in World War II, 14,000 as officers. The entire graduating classes of 1941 and 1942 enlisted in the military. The Aggie War Hymn was written by Aggie Marine J.V. "Pinky" Wilson while standing guard on the Rhine River during World War I and it remains the most recognizable school fight song across the country--probably the world.
Today, Muster is observed in more than 400 places worldwide and this year's "Roll Call of the Absent" honored 970 people around the world, including those remarkable young men and women who gave their lives for our country today. While this is a time to honor those that have died, it also is a time when Aggies, young and old, come together to reconnect and celebrate a way of life known only to those that proudly call themselves an Aggie.
Muster means different things to different people. Every Aggie will tell you something different, something personal about what it means to them as an Aggie. One thing that is consistent in every answer is their dedication to tradition. It is the rich heritage of tradition that sets Texas A&M apart from all the rest. It is the Corps, the Aggie War Hymn, the 12th Man, Midnight Yell, Bonfire, State pride, and as much as it pains me to say it--it's TU. It's the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band, Silver Taps and ``Hallabaloo, Canek, Canek.'' It's the Junction Boys, Howdy, Gig'em, Reville, the Dixie Chicken and of course, the ring. But above all else--it's Muster.
And that's just the way it is.