Thirty-five Aggies were commissioned into the military Friday afternoon as part of Texas A&M’s commencement ceremony at Reed Arena.

The commission preceded the graduation of several hundred students from the colleges of architecture, dentistry, education and human development, geosciences, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health, science and veterinary medicine.

As the 35 were commissioned, a proud and enthusiastic crowd cheered on the young men and women in uniform as they stood with their right hands raised before Texas A&M Corps of Cadets Commandant Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez.

Scott Lauritsen, a Houston native and newly commissioned Air Force officer with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, said he enjoyed his time with the Corps but didn’t know he wanted to become an airman until he had a chance conversation with a veteran customer at the restaurant where he once waited tables. Now, he’s preparing to be stationed at Laughlin AFB in Del Rio, overseeing enlisted officers.

“As you go through four years with the Corps, you take on different leadership roles and get broader insight on how to be a leader, from [many] different points of view,” Lauristen said.

He noted that while some natural ability to lead will be necessary for success, much of the knowledge he’s gained comes from his time in the Corps.

“The Corps of Cadets made me more disciplined,” he said. “It made me a harder worker. It made me appreciate the small things, like being able to make my own decisions.”

Lauristen came to Texas A&M having many Aggie family members, but for San Antonio native Mauricio Castaneda Jr., the first seed of Aggie pride is being planted for generations to come.

Castaneda graduated Tuesday afternoon with a bachelor’s degree in political science and as an armor officer in the U.S. Army soon to be stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia. Castaneda and his younger sister, who is currently attending Harvard University, are the first in their family to attend college. Castaneda’s father, Mauricio Sr., immigrated to Texas from Mexico as a teenager.

Castaneda knew since he was a child that he wanted to serve his country. He joined JROTC in high school, and decided to attend Texas A&M during a high school field trip to the campus.

“I always felt a sense of duty to serve the country I live in,” he said. “I have a big appreciation for living in our country, and for the freedoms we have. That’s something we have to defend... [The Corps] instilled in me a greater sense of brotherhood, the camaraderie of the Army, and a greater sense of determination, which I think will come in handy when I start my career and am deployed... Going through the Corps taught me how to be a good follower first — you can’t be a good leader without being a good follower. It was a humbling experience.”

Castaneda’s mother, Elva, wept tears of pride as she watched her son take his oath. He is also the first in the Castaneda family to serve in the United States military.

“I think his heart will make him a good officer, as will his compassion and the leadership skills he has learned,” she said.

Nearly 2,200 degrees were awarded during summer commencement ceremonies by Texas A&M University at campuses in College Station, Galveston, Qatar and sites across Texas, a press release stated. Marcia McNutt — a world-renowned geophysicist, the president of the National Academy of Sciences, a scientific journal editor, former director of the U.S. Geological Survey and team leader in response to the infamous BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 — was presented an honorary doctorate by A&M President Michael K. Young during the ceremony.

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