Tuesday night was not the first time Will Hurd spoke for Texas A&M University's Aggie Muster.
The freshman U.S. congressman from Texas' 23rd District delivered his first Muster speech as student body president the year the Aggie Bonfire collapsed, killing 12 Aggies. He took the stage last night a second time as the main speaker, and although this year's Muster did not carry the same weight it did in 2000, his time in between speeches let him realize what the tradition means.
"Today when we call here for those who have left us behind, do not mourn. Rejoice," Hurd said. "Rejoice because they are in a better place, rejoice because today you are committed and get to commit to live life to the fullest. Because, my friends, that is what they would have wanted us to do."
Michael Quast, class of '15, called for his father Robert, Class of '80, who passed away in November from a heart attack. A pair of sweat-stained A&M hats he could always be seen wearing and an Aggie towel he slung over his shoulder while cooking were some of the items in his reflections display. Quast said he had been to Muster ceremonies before and even knew a friend from his hometown who had a loved one honored during last year's roll call.
"It's surreal to me," Quast said. "I never thought I was going to be in this situation, but to see all the help and support from the Aggie family was unexplainable."
Even with the recent loss, he did as Hurd said and celebrated.
"A lot of people have asked how I have been feeling, and I'm kind of joyful I get to do this to honor my dad. He would be glad I'm doing this."
Not far from Quast was Mark Cook, who came to honor his father, Curtis P. Cook, who passed away in January from Alzheimer's, and would have celebrated his 50th anniversary this year with his classmates from 1965. Mark Cook, although not an A&M graduate, found a deep love of A&M in following his father around the world on business. He attended Musters around the country and places as far away as Nigeria, but never to one in College Station.
"It made him who he was and he gave me that love and respect for the university," Cook said. "He was the man I wanted to be and to give him this one last honor to call his name really is an honor."
Virginia Forney, class of '16, had not attended a Muster ceremony until her grandfather, Lawrence Forney, Class of '46 passed away. Forney said her grandmother told her to call in her place to experience Muster for herself while she attended a separate Muster in Houston. Forney fought off tears while thinking of her grandfather.
"He would have really been touched," Forney said.
More than 100 similar stories of loss and celebration of life could have been told at a capacity Reed Arena. Hurd challenged the crowd to never forget those stories.
"The Aggie spirit never goes away," Hurd said. "One of the reasons it never goes away is because of Aggie Muster."