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A Different Route

November 01, 2013
 | 
Courtesy: Texas A&M Athletics
(photo: Texas A&M Athletics)

A DIFFERENT ROUTE

Yell Leader Roy May, Jr. continues the tradition of Aggies who serve

by Abby Drake '15
AggieAthletics.com

College is a time for students to discover what they are passionate about and determine where they are headed in life.

Many students wish to “make a difference in the world,” yet are unsure how to go about achieving that goal.

Such is not the case for junior Yell Leader Roy May, Jr.

May is not a traditional student in the sense of coming into college fresh out of high school without a trace of experience. Prior to enrolling at Texas A&M, he spent 12 years on active service in the United States Army.

As an airborne infantryman, May completed his training at Fort Benning, Ga. before transferring to Washington, D.C. There he was part of the “Old Guard”, the Third Infantry unit that serves as the ceremonial unit for the Army. He was part of the unit’s show “Spirit of America”, which travels and tells the story of the United States Army, when terrorists shook America to its core.

"Texas A&M’s ability to maintain its tradition well and becoming a world power as an academic institution makes me proud to be an Aggie."

- Roy May, Jr.

“We were working on the ‘Spirit of America’ when September 11 occurred,” May said. “Our mission automatically changed to rescue and recovery at the Pentagon. We got to the Pentagon the night of September 11. We entered the building and started pulling out victims. It was called rescue and recovery but it basically turned into recovery. We worked with the FBI and all of the emergency personnel that were there. We did that for 18 straight days with 12-hour shifts overnight. We got a few days off after the 18 straight and then went back for a few more days.”

While it may not have been an easy task to perform, assisting in the efforts immediately after September 11 is something May was glad to do.

“Having the opportunity to help out with the tragedy on September 11 at the Pentagon, not that it is a happy memory by any means, but having the opportunity to be there and do whatever I was called upon to do is something I am honored to have done,” May said. “It was important work and it had to be done, no matter how rough it was emotionally. It was a job that needed to be done and needed to be done correctly. I will always be proud of that.”

Aiding his country after the worst terrorist attacks it had ever seen was not enough of a patriotic duty for May. Once his assignment was complete at the Pentagon he began serving as a guard in the Arlington National Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. While there, he also served with the Continental Color Guard, the nation’s foremost colors team, and presented the national colors at events such as the Arena Football League Superbowl.

Still, May had more American privileges ahead of him. During his assignment in Washington D.C., former President Ronald Reagan passed away and May assisted in guarding him as he lay in state at the Capitol. He even had the privilege of laying the Speaker of the House wreath at the ceremony in D.C.

After a brief stint with Army recruiting in San Diego, during which he became a Battalion singer and sang the national anthem at a San Diego Padres-Los Angeles Dodgers game, May was once again transferred, this time to the 82nd Airborne out of Fort Bragg, N.C. His unit was already deployed to Iraq so May packed up his family and within 30 days was on a flight to join his unit.

One notable fact about May’s time as the unit’s squadron leader is that every person in his unit returned stateside.

“That’s your job as a leader,” May said. “Whether that’s luck or not, I don’t know. Thankfully we were fortunate enough. My dad was in Vietnam and it’s an unfortunate fact of war. Sometimes you can’t get everybody home. He still remembers it to this day, obviously. I’m fortunate enough that I had such great soldiers that were so capable and so responsible to work together as a team and look out for each other. They all got home safely. I don’t think it necessarily has anything to do with my leadership. It is a testament to those guys but I was very proud that we all got home.”

After completing his tour in Iraq and finishing 12 years in the United States Army, May turned his eyes toward education.

"Being a Tomb Guard and being a Yell Leader are similar in the sense that it has nothing to do with you as a person. It has to do with the uniform and the job...as a Yell Leader it’s not about you. It’s about maintaining your one-fifth of responsibility."

- Roy May, Jr.

“I’ve got a daughter and I would like for her to go to college if that’s what she chooses to do, though it is not much of a choice,” May said.  “It’s important for me to set the example for my daughter. My wife has a degree and I need to get a degree.”

Though his father graduated from Texas A&M (Class of ’66), there were other reasons why May chose to move to College Station.

“I think, without a doubt, the military history of Texas A&M is what sticks with me most,” May said. “It’s something I grew up knowing about. The contributions this University has made over America’s history and in general to the military is amazing. Also the fact that in a university of 54,000 people, the Corps of Cadets still has its place. The University isn’t trying to squeeze them out or anything to edge them out of their position. In fact, the Corps is growing. Texas A&M’s ability to maintain its tradition well and becoming a world power as an academic institution makes me proud to be an Aggie.”

As if his career and life weren’t awe-inspiring enough, May decided to take on the additional responsibility of representing Texas A&M as one of its five Yell Leaders.

“The opportunity to be a Yell Leader is cool and it’s a lot of fun, but it is such an awesome opportunity to really give back to the university,” May said. “It’s a service position. You represent A&M anywhere the university deems necessary. It’s not just at football games where everybody sees us. We go to a lot of events all over the state of Texas. We get the opportunity to tell the Aggie story and tell about Texas A&M.”

In fact, the transition from soldier to Yell Leader was not that difficult, as May sees some similarities in the positions.

“Being a Tomb Guard and being a Yell Leader are similar in the sense that it has nothing to do with you as a person,” May said. “It has to do with the uniform and the job. As an individual, it is your job to not be an individual but to maintain the high standards and ‘complete the mission’ that the position entails. It has nothing to do with you personally. That’s why, when you are at the Tomb, the sentinels don’t wear nametapes. When you are walking on the mat, you don’t even wear your rank. It’s not your job to be recognized, just like as a Yell Leader it’s not about you. It’s about maintaining your one-fifth of responsibility you have with the five Yell Leaders.”

While May might not be a traditional student by any means, he perfectly exemplifies the Aggie Spirit and exhibits such core values as selfless service and loyalty, evidenced by his tireless dedication to the United States of America and his efforts in the Army.

Yell Leaders represent Texas A&M and the student body wherever they go. With his commitment to his country, his willingness to do whatever is asked of him and his love for his school, Aggies everywhere should be proud to have Roy May, Jr. represent them.




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