February 18, 2016

Those who served with Lt. Col. Roy Tisdale ’92 describe him as a true servant leader. The U.S. Army officer always found meaningful ways to honor the courage and commitment of his troops, whether leading them into combat, standing in for an injured comrade or boosting morale through an impromptu cookout after an exhausting field exercise.

Many Aggies sought ways to salute Tisdale—a recipient of the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal and Army Commendation Medal—following his untimely death in 2012. Those who knew him say he was self-effacing and would only have wanted honors that were inclusive of others. Appropriately, one of these memorials, the LTC Roy Tisdale '92 Sul Ross scholarship program, links the decorated Army officer with other Aggies who have died in service to the United States since Sept. 11, 2001. Thirty-seven fallen Aggies, including Tisdale, will be honored through the creation of endowed Sul Ross Scholarships in their names through the Texas A&M Foundation.

Loved by His Troops

The Alvin native displayed leadership potential at an early age. He showed livestock, competed in rodeos and served on his high school’s agriculture leadership and livestock judging teams. After graduation, he enrolled at Texas A&M University, where he served in Corps of Cadets Company D-2 while earning a bachelor’s degree in animal science.

Darrell Cassle (left) and Lt. Col. Roy Tisdale '92 (right)

Aggieland was never far from Tisdale’s thoughts after he accepted a commission in the U.S. Army and rose through the officer ranks. Darrell Cassle recalled that Tisdale proudly displayed his Corps senior boots and fish spurs on his desk during their first meeting. “He was approachable and a nice guy,” said Cassle, who served as Tisdale’s second-in-command. “He was honest and fair in his role of training soldiers and maintaining discipline. The troops loved him.”

Cassle served with Tisdale in the 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment at Fort Polk, Louisiana, from September 2002 to October 2003. The pair were responsible for preparing troops for combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. Tisdale’s charges grew full beards and wore Iraqi civilian clothing so they could convincingly portray insurgents during training scenarios. Tisdale also had first-hand experience in these conflicts, serving two full tours in both countries.

In his last post, Tisdale served as commander of the 525th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was murdered by a serviceman who was being court-martialed for theft. Tisdale’s funeral drew national attention when Texas A&M students and former students created a massive human wall to block protesters from Westboro Baptist Church, who because of their religious beliefs frequently target military funerals.

Leslie Easterwood '90 '95, an equine veterinarian and clinical assistant professor with the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, has spearheaded several efforts to recognize Roy Tisdale's life and service.

Scholarships for Aggie Heroes

Aggieland’s recognition of Tisdale’s life has taken many forms, but the common denominator is Leslie Easterwood ’90 ’95, an equine veterinarian and clinical assistant professor with the College of Veterinarian Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Easterwood’s ties to Tisdale were cemented when both were growing up in Alvin and involved in various agriculture programs.

Initial efforts to honor Tisdale on campus began when another of the soldier’s friends donated a memorial tree and bench by the Sam Houston Sanders Corps Center. Additional discussions with Texas A&M Foundation staff led Easterwood and Tisdale’s family members and friends to start the initiative to name a student lounge in the Buzbee Leadership Learning Center on the Quadrangle as the LTC Roy Tisdale '92 Memorial Student Lounge.

Easterwood then spearheaded the creation of the LTC Roy Tisdale '92 Sul Ross Scholarship in her friend’s honor called, but knew that her childhood friend would never want to be singled out for recognition. So she expanded the scholarship to recognize Aggies who have been lost in service to the U.S. since 9/11. That number currently is at 37, including Tisdale and two Aggies who died in the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and New York City. “We made the decision to use this date because we felt that these Aggies were Roy’s contemporaries,” she said.

Easterwood hopes to raise funds to create the additional endowed Sul Ross Scholarships, each of which will be named for one of these fallen Aggies. Once endowed, these scholarships will support members of the Corps of Cadets.

Several fundraisers, including the Running with Roy Memorial 5K/10K and Fore Our Heroes Golf Tournament that are held on the Texas A&M campus during the academic year, will support the LTC Roy Tisdale '92 Memorial Student Lounge and the endowed scholarship program. Easterwood also has committed her own financial resources. The assistant professor donates money she earns as the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo veterinarian to these memorial efforts and has made the Texas A&M Foundation the beneficiary of a life insurance policy that earmarks funds for these endeavors.

Easterwood also facilitated Ring It Forward, which raises funds through The Association of Former Students to provide Aggie rings to combat veterans who graduate from Texas A&M. These rings are given in memory of the fallen Aggies who are being recognized by the Tisdale scholarship program.

Fine Cadets and Soldiers

After retiring from the military, Cassle was hired as a Corps of Cadets training officer at Texas A&M. One of his charges was Zach Cook ’08, a member of Company D-1 from Lufkin. “He was an exuberant and outgoing young man who loved the Corps of Cadets and Aggieland,” Cassle said. “He was always upbeat and highly motivated. He became one of my favorite cadets over those four years.”

Shortly after he was commissioned, Cook died in a helicopter crash on Duncan Field while assisting with the 2009 Rudder's Rangers Winter FTX training exercise. Thanks to Easterwood’s efforts, Cook will now be remembered through the Tisdale scholarship program.

Cassle, for one, has a real appreciation for the link between his former commander and Cook that was forged after their respective deaths. "Having the opportunity to train and mentor Zack during his cadet years and seeing him grow into a fine gentleman and soldier, gives me a real sense of what Roy Tisdale was probably like as a cadet,” Cassle said. “Through the two of them I got both perspectives—a great cadet growing into a fine soldier, and a fine soldier who was once a great cadet."

By Dorian Martin ’06

Texas A&M Foundation
The Texas A&M Foundation is a nonprofit organization that solicits and manages investments in academics and leadership programs to enhance Texas A&M’s capability to be among the best universities.