Stephanie Cannon '06
June 25, 2010 5:28 PM
updated: August 2, 2017 9:34 AM
April 16, was a milestone day for 3,975 Aggies who received their coveted Aggie Rings during the largest Aggie Ring Day in history. Among those proudly sliding the Aggie Ring on their fingers for the first time was John Comstock ’03, the last survivor pulled from the stack of logs following the collapse of the 1999 Aggie Bonfire.
“It’s taken such a long time,” Comstock said after receiving his Ring. “I’m just really in shock, but excited.”
Comstock received his Aggie Ring from 2010 Association Chair of the Board Shariq Yosufzai ’74, and Association President and CEO Porter Garner ’79 during Ring Day festivities at the Clayton W. Williams, Jr. Alumni Center. During the presentation, Garner—who had visited Comstock during his recovery—offered his congratulations.
“John, I can’t tell you how excited I am that this day has arrived for you,” he said. “I am honored to be the one to present you with your Aggie Ring.”
Each and every Ring story is special and many involve triumph over adversity and unique twists and turns. No story, however, is exactly like that of John Comstock. His Aggie Ring journey began in August of 1999, when he entered Texas A&M as a freshman and moved into Moses Hall. He was the first in his family to attend Texas A&M and knew little about the Aggie Spirit or Aggie Network.
Within a few months of his arrival, students across campus—on campus and off, Corps and non-reg—initiated work on the 1999 Aggie Bonfire. Comstock said he quickly embraced the Bonfire tradition and was an eager participant, never missing a cut. The physical strength gained from long days at the cut site, swinging an ax and lifting logs, is something he said, ironically, helped him survive while trapped for seven hours under the weight of the 2-million-pound collapsed structure.
He would need that strength in the coming days, weeks and months and even in the years that followed. During his 84-day stay at the College Station Medical Center, doctors told his mother, Dixie Edwards, on multiple occasions that her son might not survive. His left leg was amputated from the knee down and his right hand sustained injury, as well. His condition at one point was so grave that University officials had prepared a news release, just in case.
Comstock, however, had other plans that didn’t involve a news release detailing his death. He persevered and began the road to recovery, enjoying a visit from Aggie singer/songwriters Robert Earl Keen ’78 and Lyle Lovett ’79 along the way and inspiring the crowd gathered at the February 2000 Bonfire Benefit Concert with a taped message from his hospital room.
During his recovery, Aggies from all over the world reached out to him. The response, in his words, was overwhelming, and included cards and letters containing money and even a few Aggie Rings.
“I received a few Rings with notes saying, ‘I want you to have my Ring, you’ve earned it’,” Comstock said.
He said he was certainly appreciative and moved by the gestures, but didn’t feel right keeping the Rings.
“We returned them, saying, ‘Thank you, but I’m going to earn my own’,” Comstock said.
It would take more than 10 years of stops and starts, additional medical procedures and 19 hours of coursework during the fall 2009 semester, but Comstock, indeed, earned his Aggie Ring and graduated in May with a degree in Agricultural Leadership and Development. Returning to A&M and earning his degree was something, he said, that had to be done.
“How could I not want to be a part of the Aggie family after all that we experienced?” he said. “We were blown away by how much caring was shown and how much people wanted to help.
”While the Aggie family rejoiced at Comstock’s story of perseverance and triumph in receiving his Aggie Ring and earning his degree, one notable member of his own family wasn’t seen in the Clayton W. Williams, Jr. Alumni Center in April or in Reed Arena in May. His mother, Dixie Edwards, passed away unexpectedly in 2007.
“She’d be super happy and proud of me,” Comstock said. “This is something she really wanted for me.”
Comstock said earning his Aggie Ring was worth every trial and tribulation experienced along the way. He called it a huge symbol of hard work and perseverance and said looking at it for the first time took him back to Nov. 18 and the way the Aggie family reached out to him throughout his recovery.
While Comstock’s Aggie journey has been filled with more adversity and trials than most, he said A&M has been a positive experience for him. He doesn’t dwell on the difficulties he’s faced, but chooses to focus on the positive.
“To complain about what’s happened doesn’t do me any good,” he said. “There’s nothing bad that’s happened to me, that something good hasn’t come from, as well.”
As an example, Comstock shared that while at home in Dallas tending to his mother’s estate, he became acquainted with Jen Seelig, a meeting he called a blessing. Seelig is the daughter of an Aggie and was at Comstock’s side when he received his Aggie Ring. There was even talk of another ring purchase in the near future, an engagement ring for Seelig.
“I have instructions that it needs to be big,” Comstock said.
As for the future after Aggieland, Comstock said he planned to circulate his resume and let people know he is looking for a job. He’s optimistic and ready for the next step.
“People ask me what I want to do and I tell them I don’t fret about things too much anymore,” he said. “I kind of just go with it. Whatever comes will come.”