The Last Corps Trip


10-Year Member
Jan 29, 2011
Philo H. "Buddy" DuVal Jr. '51, who wrote "The Last Corps Trip" while a student at Texas A&M, has died. He was 86.

The poem is well known among Aggies. It is read at hundreds of Aggie Muster ceremonies around the world every April 21. It is also inscribed on a wall at the Bonfire Memorial.

In an interview in 2016 with Stephanie Cannon '06, Duval reflected on his inspiration to write the poem and the reaction to it:

Over the years, not all of his poems hit the mark, DuVal said. Many were crumpled and thrown away, but this one was different. “I started asking people to read it,” he said. “I didn’t have one person say, ‘Why don’t you get rid of this?’”

When his roommate, Joseph Bravenec ’51, took it to a group of seniors, it suddenly grew legs. Head yell leader Red Duke ’50 (see */ FN 1 below) —if his memory serves correctly—read it at the next yell practice.

That was the first time the poem was read publicly, but now more than 60 years later, there’s no way to know how many times it’s been spoken. On April 21, it will be read at Aggie Musters around the world.

Through time and generations, “it holds its own,” he said.

“I’ve just been lucky in that I’ve written quite a few things in my life, and a lot of it has been about the school. I generally do it in a way that says the truth. That’s about all I can tell you.”

The Last Corps Trip

It was Judgment Day in Aggieland

And tenseness filled the air;

All knew there was a trip at hand,

But not a soul knew where.

Assembled on the drill field

Was the world-renowned Twelfth Man,

The entire fighting Aggie team

And the famous Aggie Band.

And out in front with Royal Guard

The reviewing party stood;

St. Peter and his angel staff

Were choosing bad from good.

First he surveyed the Aggie team

And in terms of an angel swore,

“By Jove, I do believe I’ve seen

This gallant group before.

I’ve seen them play since way back when,

And they’ve always had the grit;

I’ve seen ‘em lose and I’ve seen ‘em win,

But I’ve never seen ‘em quit.

No need for us to tarry here

Deciding upon their fates;

Tis plain as the halo on my head

That they’ve opened Heaven’s gates.”

And when the Twelfth Man heard this,

They let out a mighty yell

That echoed clear to Heaven

and shook the gates of Hell.

“And what group is this upon the side,”

St. Peter asked his aide,

“That swelled as if to burst with pride

When we our judgment made?”

“Why, sir, that’s the Cadet Corps

That’s known both far and wide

For backing up their fighting team

Whether they won, lost or tied.”

“Well, then,” said St. Peter,

“It’s very plain to me

That within the realms of Heaven

They should spend eternity.

And have the Texas Aggie Band

At once commence to play

For their fates too we must decide

Upon this crucial day.”

And the drum major so hearing

Slowly raised his hand

And said, “Boys, let’s play The Spirit

For the last time in Aggieland.”

And the band poured forth the anthem

In notes both bright and clear

And ten thousand Aggie voices

Sang the song they hold so dear.

And when the band had finished,

St. Peter wiped his eyes

And said, “It’s not so hard to see

They’re meant for Paradise.”

And the colonel of the Cadet Corps said

As he stiffly took his stand,

“It’s just another Corps Trip, boys,

We’ll march in behind the band.”

- by P.H. DuVal, Jr.'51

Additional bonfire verse by Kathryn Holmes Smith (refers to the 1999 collapse of the bonfire in which 12 Aggies died;

Then heaven's pearly portals opened,

Hosts of Angels showed the way,

For that Fighting Texas Aggie group

On that final Judgment Day.

When more Aggies came in view.

Twelve dressed in Bonfire gear

Walking arm and arm, and singing

Of the School they hold so dear.

Twelve Aggie voices said "Howdy"

To the keepers of the Gate.

"Working hard we just lost track of time,

We hope we're not too late."

"It's the Fighting Aggie Bonfire Crew,"

St. Peter said, "Behold."

They're ready to light up Heaven,

With their courage and faith so bold".

"I would often watch them building,

That Stack so large and high,

And surely knew the time would come

They would build it in the sky."

And so the twelve came through the Gates,

St. Peter said, "Don't fear,

You are just in time for Roll Call"

One by one, they answered. . . "Here."

*/ FN 1:

Dr. Red Duke, Acclaimed Surgeon Who Attended JFK, Dies at 86

by Alex Johnson

Dr. James "Red" Duke, the acclaimed trauma surgeon who initially treated President John F. Kennedy and was credited with saving the life of Texas Gov. John Connally from assassin Lee Harvey Oswald's bullets, died Tuesday at 86, his family said.

The cause of death wasn't reported.

Duke was a surgical resident at Parkland Memorial Hospital on Nov. 22, 1963, when Kennedy and Connally were shot in their motorcade in Dallas. He was the first surgeon to receive the president before taking leadership of the treatment of Connally, who made a point of thanking Duke publicly until he died in 1993.

James Henry Duke Jr. — a colorful figure with red curly hair, a big, bushy mustache and Teddy Roosevelt-style eyeglasses — later took his deep Texas drawl and homespun manner to television, hosting the PBS series "Bodywatch" in the 1980s and the internationally syndicated "Dr. Red Duke Texas Health Reports" for 15 years. [See, inter alia:]

He was also the inspiration for the 1986 TV series "Buck James," starring Dennis Weaver as a folksy but brilliant Texas emergency room surgeon, according to a profile on the website of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, where Duke worked for more than 40 years.

Behind the spotlight, Duke was known and respected around the world as a physician.

“Dr. Duke was a true pioneer — a talented and tireless surgeon, a dedicated and inspiring educator, and a friend and mentor to everyone he met. He never sought to be a leader, but became one naturally through his brilliance, compassion, patience and selflessness."

Duke founded Life Flight operations in 1976 at Houston's Hermann Hospital, where he was medical director for trauma and emergency services until shortly before his death. He also co-founded the American Trauma Society and was widely reported in 1989 to have been on President-elect George H.W. Bush's short list for surgeon general.

Dan Wolterman, the hospital's president and chief executive, called Duke "one of our country's great doctors," describing him as "a role model and mentor to a generation of doctors who benefited immensely from his guidance."

Besides his medical degrees and honors, Duke also earned a degree in divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

"To countless colleagues, friends and patients, he was a skilled physician, innovative healthcare provider, exceptional communicator and dedicated conservationist," Duke's family said in a statement. "We, however, mourn him as a caring father, grandfather and devoted brother who will be deeply missed by his family."