On Thursday, I’m planning on leaving work a few minutes early so that I can get to the Dallas A&M Club’s Muster event on time. Naturally, that's led to me trying to explain to some co-workers what Muster is. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to explain Muster to someone who isn’t an Aggie but it’s really tough (and, in my case, ended in me making the always-reliable Aggie Mustard condiment joke. Try it.)
I’m excited because this will be my first off-campus Muster. My first Muster as a Former Student, as a full-time employee, as a "has-been." This will be the first time in six years that I won’t climb up the steps to Reed Arena with a couple of my friends, dressed in our best business casual, and sit cramped along the seats of the balcony.
I haven’t seen a lot of those friends in a while. They live in different cities. Some of them have gotten married. And more than a couple of them already have kids. And, yeah, it’s a part of growing up and moving on, but there’s always going to be those times in College Station, in dusty Reed Arena, wondering about the stories for each of the names being called. Muster is the reason I chose to go to A&M, the reason I ended up sitting next to these guys. I owe everything I have to Muster.
Call it youthful rebellion or just plain stupidity (with hindsight, I'll go with the latter), but from my freshman year to my junior year of high school, I didn’t even consider going to Texas A&M for college. My parents met at Texas A&M. My grandfather taught at Texas A&M. All of my cousins, aunts, and uncles, at one point or another, went to school at Texas A&M. And so, naturally, I refused to go to Texas A&M. It didn’t make much sense, I know, but it was just not an option for me. I wanted something new and different and that, to a 16-year-old Brandon Wainerdi, was definitely not Texas A&M.
So I applied to 12 different universities, in addition to A&M. 12. For an act of youthful rebellion, I sure picked one that took a lot of effort. I guess I had hoped to ward off that familial magnetic draw by sheer quantity. As I slowly began to narrow down my list, as each envelope arrived unceremoniously at my door, A&M was oddly never crossed off.
Late in my senior year of high school, I officially visited campus. On the night of Aggie Muster. I was blown away. I had been going to Aggie football games since I was as tall as Reveille. I had tramped the sidewalks of campus ever since I could walk, but I had never felt the "Spirit of Aggieland" in such a powerful, physical way until I was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with complete strangers, heads bowed in a candle-lit Reed Arena.
My mind was made up: I was an Aggie now and forever, because of the love, because of the "here." It was one of my better decisions. Muster means a lot of different things to a lot of different Aggies but, to me, it means home.
So if you’re a student: get to Reed. Wear something kind of nice, sit as high up as you can in the rafters, and look around you. Take 20 minutes out of your day today and go to the MSC Flag Room to see the Reflections Display. Talk to the family members. Smile. Learn about who came before you, who they were, what their stories were.
And if you’re a Former Student: celebrate Muster any way you can. Grab dinner with a few classmates you haven’t seen in a while. Show your family some of your old yearbook photos. Pour yourself a drink, call an old friend and remember what you did during your four years in College Station together and then what you did during each of your victory laps. Watch Dr. Robert Gates' 2009 speech. Show up to your local A&M Club’s event, fork over the $20, eat some catered BBQ, and meet some new Aggies.
But whatever you do and whoever you are, celebrate Muster.
There are 308 different Muster events planned this year and the Aggie Network has mapped all of them out here. Some of these cities I think they made up but I can guarantee you that there is one close-ish to you.