“Here.” It’s one of the most powerful words Aggies speak. In a time of sorrow and sadness, it is a reminder that the Aggie family will always stand with us in life and death. This week, the Corps of Cadets and Texas A&M community endured a tragic loss. Cadet Nathan Matos ‘19 passed away on Saturday, April 20. In the haze of the days that followed, members of the Corps of Cadets have shown what it truly means to be a member of the Aggie family.
Since Tuesday evening, cadets have voluntarily taken shifts to stand guard by Matos’ casket. The 24 hour watch–completely orchestrated by cadets–will run until Matos departs on Sunday. The 30 minute watch shifts began Tuesday evening and will run until Sunday afternoon. Almost immediately after they opened, all shifts were full. When asked why cadets were standing with Matos, a cadet replied, “We’re taught from day one to care for each other. That’s why it’s so important for us to do this watch 24 hours. There’s no way in hell we’re going to let one of our own be by himself or by herself without someone there to guard over them.” Through these actions, it’s evident that the Corps’ core values of Honor and Selfless Service are fully ingrained into cadets from the beginning. “The Corps of Cadets is a family and we take care of each other whether we know each other or not. We’ll never leave someone behind.”
An observer might notice that the cadets’ impeccable uniforms are missing one key element. While on watch, the cadets won’t wear their nameplates on their uniforms. Says a cadet, “It’s not about us and it’s not about the people standing watch, but it’s about why we’re doing it.” To uphold the integrity of the cadets’ actions, every effort has been taken to preserve cadet anonymity. The cadets aren’t standing watch for credit or glory. They’re not doing it to fill an empty time slot in their schedule. They’re standing watch to uphold the connection they have with one another. “As cadets here at Texas A&M, everyone’s a brother and everyone’s a sister, whether you knew someone or not; whether you were close to them or not.” The Corps connection starts at the beginning of the cadet experience and grows with every passing day. It includes sharing a room, an outfit or a shared experience. Regardless of size or strength of connection, cadets, like any Aggie, are bound together for life. “We don’t need to know each other to be able to support each other. When something like this happens, we all want to be there for each other. You don’t need to know someone to try to be there for other people” says a cadet.
The cadet response to this tragedy is unexpected, but upon further reflection, exactly what one might expect from the Aggie family. How do you explain the cadets’ actions or being a member of the Aggie family to someone? “I really think that’s kind of hard to put into words what we have here. I feel like it’s something you have to see more than hear about.” There was never a second thought about whether or not cadets would stand watch. “We know that Matos probably would have done the same if it happened to anyone of us. We’re all there for each other.”