This post was written by New York Aggies' 2015-2016 Scholarship recipient, Bryce Barros '17. A native of the Tri-State Area, Bryce studied International Affairs at The Bush School.
I first learned of Muster not through my fellow Aggies, but from a friend of mine that graduated from The Citadel. Prior to attending Texas A&M University for my Master’s degree, I was living in Taipei, Taiwan, spending most of my time with other Senior Military College grads from my own Alma Mater, Norwich University, as well as The Citadel, Virginia Military Institute, and Virginia Tech. One day in passing, my Citadel graduate friend told me he was going to Muster. So naturally, as a Norwich grad, I asked him “What is Muster?” He explained to me that Muster was a tradition that was started in the Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets for all students and graduates to gather in one place remember those who passed away in over the year, and to serve as a reminder that they have each other’s backs. He further explained that the tradition came to The Citadel because they had a cadet exchange program with Texas A&M. Citadel cadets that went to Aggieland for a semester brought the tradition back with them. At the time, I had no idea that I would become an Aggie or attend the Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University.
A year later, following my acceptance to attend the Bush School, I was invited by the Taiwan Aggie Club to go to Muster. Although I did not attend because I delayed my matriculation by another year, I was reminded of tradition that it invoked. This became very apparent to me while visiting a former WWII POW camp in Northern Taiwan called Kinkaseki (Jinguashi). This town was a Gold Mine that the Japanese used American, British and Commonwealth, and Dutch POWs captured in the fall of the Philippines, Singapore, Malaya, Java, and Hong Kong to mine. My old Taiwanese host family grew up near this rural village/POW camp. I was surprised to find that this camp may have held Aggies too.
Muster ran through my head while visiting Manila in 2015. That year, I knew the theme of Muster was Corregidor Island. I remember flying over Manila Bay and thinking to myself the hardships that those Aggies faced while held in Japanese captivity. All the Aggies I had met in Taiwan emphasized that Muster was such an important tradition that Aggies held as POWs made sure to hold it. I was moved with tears as I saw Corregidor Island and the large Filipino Navy base that currently occupies it.
However, despite this all, I came to realize the true importance of Muster and the Aggie Family from the NY Aggies. Throughout my time in Aggieland, this club has supported me financially, professionally, and personally to this day. The NY Aggies have truly become not just a group of Scholarship Benefactors 1500+ miles away in NYC while I was in College Station, but a family that has helped me immensely, both professionally and personally. Through the last three years I have been a student at Texas A&M, this club taught me that Muster means having a strong extended Aggie family to rely on, honoring those who came before us and past away over the last year, and forging a future for future Aggies. As Aggies, paying it forward a big part of our traditions, but to do that, we have to recognize those who have passed over the last year to properly reflect on our future.