Mr. Speaker, ok, so 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 other school that has as loyal a following and dedication to tradition as Texas A&M.

Texas A&M is famous for its traditions, ranging from the Aggie War Hymn, the 12th Man, Midnight Yell, Gig ’em, Reville and of course, the ring. But above all else, there is one tradition that I have the greatest respect for—Aggie Muster.

Every year on April 21st, Aggies from all over the world come together to honor the memories of fellow A&M men and women whose death prevents their answering the Roll Call at the annual Muster. (It is no small coincidence that April 21st is also the anniversary of the battle of San Jacinto—where Texas gained independence from Mexico in 1836.) The Roll is a symbolic Roll Call of all students and former students whom death has taken from the Aggie ranks, but whose memory lives on in Aggie hearts. As each name is called, a comrade will answer ‘‘here’’ in their stead.

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 to account for every Aggie around the world by honoring the ‘‘Roll Call of the Absent’’ every year on San Jacinto Day, April 21st—the day marking Texas’ Independence in 1836.

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, hunched in the trenches on Corregidor Island in the Philippines, General Moore and 25 fellow Aggies answered the Roll Call for the Aggies who no longer could.

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 to 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 on envelope 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 1015 people around the world, including those remarkable young men and women who gave their lives for our country today. The family of former U.S. first lady Barbara Bush elected to defer her recognition at Aggie Muster to 2019, when her family will have the opportunity to participate. When her name is called, Aggies all over the world will whisper ‘‘here’’.

Muster is a time to honor those that have died, and a time for all Aggies to come together to reconnect and celebrate a way of life known only to those that proudly hail from Aggieland. This somber tradition illustrates the deep bond among all Aggies and is a key part of the rich heritage of tradition that sets Texas A&M apart from all the rest.

Gig ’em Aggies.

And that’s just the way it is.