Decades ago, the first thing Dan Boone would do upon walking in to the Military Science Building at Texas A&M University was peek around the entryway and take a moment to look at a painting of the first Reveille.
Boone, a member of the class of 1946 and former Battalion student newspaper editor, helped raise $100 in 1943 to pay for the painting that would honor the memory of the aging mascot. He entered the building one day in the early 1990s expecting to see the portrait of Reveille in front of the Class of 1938 Memorial Fountain, but only saw a blank space on the wall.
"I didn't see a flicker of enthusiasm from anyone that I knew was in my eye when I told them Reveille was missing," Boone said.
Boone said he had all but lost hope after more than 24 years of searches by a handful of "Old Army" Ags who shared a similar affection for the piece yielded no results.
A former student who called in with a tip on the painting's location after Thanksgiving in response to an article she had seen was a major breakthrough in the cold case.
Campus police followed a trail of tips from former students all the way to a storage facility in San Antonio in late December. After 24 years, Boone finally laid his eyes on the painting when he helped unveil the four-foot by five-foot painting at the Sam Houston Sanders Corps of Cadets Center on Wednesday.
An audience of more than 100 that included former students, Reveille VIII, current cadets, campus police officers who conducted the investigation and four generations of Corps commandants saw the recovered painting return to its Aggieland home. According to Corps Commandant Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez, the Corps Center is where the painting will stay.
"The enduring tradition of Reveille I and how she became the first lady of Aggieland still resonates with all Aggies," Ramirez said. "We are forever grateful for Reveille's legacy and how the tradition of the Corps' special relationship with our university's mascot endures to this day. We're all excited this unique historic painting will be placed at the Corps of Cadets Center where it belongs."
After Ramirez's address, University Police Assistant Chief Michael Johnson gave some insight as to how the painting was recovered.
"Many times it is very difficult to recover items that go missing just days prior," Johnson said. "It is remarkable that we were able to recover an item that's been missing for over 24 years."
According to Johnson, the Corps Center received a tip from a former student on Dec. 2 who told Curator Lisa Kalmus she had seen the painting in a student's home while she was in college during the early '90s. The tipster provided contact information for the roommate of the person she believed had possession of the painting. The information was turned over to university police officer Russell Rogers, who was able to contact the person of interest by Dec. 5.
Rogers discovered through talking with the person who had the painting that the work was being kept in a storage facility in San Antonio. Because the man holding the painting was overseas during the time he was contacted, it took until Dec. 30 for it to be returned to the campus police station.
"It was a pleasure to work with former Aggies," Rogers said. "It was a unique investigation. It's not every day you get to work on an item of such important value, especially when it went missing when I was 10 years old."
Johnson confirmed after the unveiling the man in possession of the painting was a former student and was cooperative with the investigation.
Col. Jim Woodall, who served as commandant from 1977 to 1982 and spearheaded the revived search in 2014 alongside former A&M archivist David Chapman, said he was excited to know cadets are finally able to see the painting they had only heard stories about.
"It looks the same as the last time it hung in my office," Woodall said.
Maj. Gen. Tom Darling, Corps commandant from 1987 to 1996, may have been one of the last people to see the painting before it disappeared from storage during building renovations in the early '90s.
"At the end of the renovation when we moved back in it wasn't around," Darling said. "I vaguely remember the painting from the commandant's area. In fact, I don't remember it being that big. I can't imagine it hanging on a wall."
After the crowd began to clear from the center, Boone had time to admire the historic piece he helped bring to life during a time of war.
"I was about to believe I would never see her again," he said.