Per Unitatem Vis…
Corps Brass has rested on the collar of each Texas A&M cadet for the last 60 years. Engraved in the banner above the shield, the words “Per Unitatem Vis” represent a bond between members of the Corps of Cadets and are a unifying motto for the entire Corps itself. This statement, forged from Latin, means “Strength Through Unity.” Its symbolism is a culmination of all of its parts. The Knight, symbolizing mind, body, spirit, poise, and integrity; the Shield, reflecting defense, protection, endurance, reputation, and tradition; the Saber, representing duty, honor, valor, quality, and confidence; and the Fasces, portraying strength, unity, authority, jurisdiction, and power. When all components come together, they form the small but significant object known as Corps Brass.
Although Corps Brass is a tradition that is unique to the members of the Corps of Cadets, the purpose it serves is not unlike other traditions on campus. The symbolism of Corps Brass extends beyond the physical piece worn by cadets on their uniform. As cadets embrace the roles of Soldier, Statesman, and Knightly Gentleman, they embody a reputation that has existed on campus for over half of a century.
The Finest First…
is the motto for Company F-1, the Corps Brass Company in the Corps of Cadets. As the creators of present day Corps Brass, F-1’s motto is etched in the outfit’s history, and symbolizes the standard expected of all who wear Corps Brass.
In 1960, a select group of seniors, led by Frank “Buck” Buchanan and Percy Mims ‘60, met to discuss class gift ideas. After much discussion, Troy Marceleno, a cadet from Company F-1, proposed the creation of a uniform collar device. He imagined a piece of brass worn by the members of Corps staff that would reflect the tradition and esteemed history of Texas A&M and the Corps of Cadets. The group liked Troy’s proposal and presented it as their gift to the administration.
A Corps-wide design competition was held to determine the concept of the collar device. Marceleno led the competition, and the Class Gift Committee eventually chose his design. His concept for Corps Brass reflected an idea proposed by Robert Haggard, an F-1 sophomore. It incorporated the components of, “Soldier, Statesman, Knightly Gentleman,” attributed to Lawrence Sullivan Ross, one of Texas A&M’s earliest presidents.
The final design was submitted to the administration in the spring of 1960 and the new Corps Brass was added to the uniform, and has been worn by members of the Corps of Cadets ever since. In the fall of 2005, members of Corps Staff began to wear Corps Brass instead of Corps Staff Brass, in unity with the rest of the Corps. In under fifty years, Corps Brass came full-circle, as all members of the Corps of Cadets now wore the distinctive brass on their uniforms.
The Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band…
cadets wear their own version of Corps Brass. The Aggie Band developed their own expression of unity through the distinctive “Band Lyre.” The first appearance of the lyre is unclear, but archive pictures and literature establish its presence around the late 1890s to early 1900s. The Band Lyre is a holdover from days when elements of the all-Army Corps of Cadets were organized as units of Cavalry, Artillery, and Infantry. Unlike today, when earning Corps Brass is a semester long process, in past years the members of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band earned their Band Lyre following the completion of their first perfect halftime drill.
Halftime drill performances at Texas Aggie football games were graded by Aggie Band leaders and a perfect drill would result in the Band Lyre being awarded to the freshmen the following Monday. The Band Lyre came to symbolize a commitment to excellence for all members of the Aggie Band, and acknowledged the freshmen as official members of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band. Earning the Aggie Band Lyre is a significant accomplishment for all members of the Aggie Band. Today, freshmen in the Aggie Band earn their Band Lyres at the same time that the rest of the Corps receives their Corps Brass. Presently, the members of the Band undergo the same training as the rest of the Corps, continuing a sense of unity throughout the Corps of Cadets.
Today, Corps Brass…
still retains the original intent of the distinctive collar device as envisioned by the original designers in 1960. As defined by The Corps of Cadets Cadence, the cadet’s operational guide, Corps Brass is defined as follows:
“Crossed in the background are a sword, representing soldierly virtues and military tradition, and a fasces, representing the statesman. Superimposed on these is a shield and helmet representing the knight, for the knightly gentleman. Above it is a scroll upon which is written in Latin “Per Unitatem Vis” – through unity strength. These represent the ideals of the inscription that appear on the pedestal of the Lawrence Sullivan Ross statue – soldier, statesman, knightly gentleman.”
Presently, cadets throughout the Corps conduct their training to earn Corps Brass in a unified manner. The training comprises three phases, representative of the three components of the Corps Brass: Soldier, Statesman, and Knightly Gentleman. Freshman cadets complete the three training phases throughout the course of their fall semester, and at the end of the semester, the Corps conducts a culminating event in which the freshmen cadets receive their Corps Brass.
At the conclusion of Corps Brass Culmination, the freshmen cadets assemble to take the Corps Brass Oath, proudly wearing their newly earned Corps Brass. The Corps Commander administers Oath, and it reads:
“I do solemnly swear, I will strive to embody the tenacity of a soldier, the intellect of a statesman, and the selflessness of a noble knight. I will execute these ideals with dignity, I will root my actions in self-discipline, I will cultivate my character with enduring pride. By accepting this Brass, I reaffirm acceptance of these values. By wearing this emblem on my uniform, I bridge decades of history between the Aggies who wore this brass and my brothers and sisters who wear it today. I pledge to earn my Corps Brass every day by my honorable actions. I will hold myself and my fellow cadets to this standard. We will not falter. We will not fail— For through unity of purpose, we find strength.”
Once the freshmen have earned their Corps Brass, they will continue to wear it proudly on their uniform for the remainder of their time in the Corps of Cadets as a symbol and reminder of the unity, strength, and the Corps values that are the cornerstone of the organization.
and counting. As the Corps celebrates a significant milestone of 60 years of Corps Brass, it is important to recognize the contributions of those who have been a part of the last 60 years—all the cadets who have earned the Corps Brass and have worn it proudly on their cadet uniform as a member of the Corps of Cadets.
For 60 years, the distinctive Corps Brass has been worn on the collar of cadets’ uniforms every day – at morning and evening formations, at Corps March-Ins and Corps Trips, at football games on Kyle Field, at Aggie Bonfire and the commemoration ceremony that has taken place every year since the stack fell in 1999, at the playing of Silver Taps the first Tuesday of every month, and at Aggie Muster on April 21st of each year. The tradition of Corps Brass is as valued and important to the members of the Corps of Cadets today as it was sixty years ago. It has become a vital part of being a member of the Corps of Cadets, just as it was when it was first designed and worn by the cadets 60 years ago. The Corps Brass tradition lives on in today’s Corps, and will continue to do so for the generations of cadets who will follow throughout the next 60 years in the Corps.
By Colton Ray ’22