SigEp Blog

Wreath Laying at Arlington National Cemetery

By Kevin Lo, College ‘16

There might not be a more definitive display of service than enlisting in the armed forces. There’s also not much that could be done to accurately show the gratitude that we (or at least the gratitude that we should) have. A simple act of laying wreaths is, quite honestly, the least any of us could do.

The author lays a wreath on a headstone.On December 14th, a group of brothers went to the Arlington National Cemetery to pay our respects to those who so diligently and selflessly served our country.  We met at 8:30 at President Hamblin’s house and together drove to the cemetery. After arriving (it was, somewhat shamefully, my first visit to the cemetery), it was incredible to digest the sheer size of the grounds—to internalize the numerous generations of individuals who served.

Before the wreath laying commenced, we ventured to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Again, being completely new to the cemetery, I did not really know what the tomb represented. After learning of its meaning, I just thought about the pain that one must have felt to never learn of a loved one’s fate in battle.

Soon after, the organizers of Wreaths Across America distributed the wreaths and an incredible movement covered the grounds. Solemnly walking towards each gravestone, one sees the wars in which each individual fought. Some were simply unbelievable. There were numerous soldiers who fought in multiple wars, with some fighting in three, from WWI to WWII to the Korean War. A simple wreath does none of this justice, but it was the very least we could do to say that we will never forget.

Of course, none of this was done for self-serving reasons, but, the day did offer something extremely valuable aside from the deep appreciation we all felt for the fallen. In the midst of finals, the day provided solitude and an opportunity to think beyond ourselves. In a period in which we are almost only thinking about achieving the best grades we can achieve in order to try to get a better job, salary, and future, a thinking beyond the self offers wonderful perspective.

Like those who fought, we should understand ourselves as a part of a much bigger collective. This applies to our fraternity (in which a new Sigma can as easily voice his opinion as can an older Epsilon) and, of course, to life. As citizens of such a privileged country and, more specifically, university, we should strive to be—like Georgetown alum Brit Marling said so beautifully said this past May—to be men and women for others in all fields of work we seek. It might never be as selfless as those who served in the armed forces, but we can at least try.

Alumni, SigEp Blog

Alumni Spotlight: A Story of Airplanes, Medicine and Brotherhood


Greetings to all fellow SigEp brothers out there and all across the world. As a continuation of DC Gamma’s focus on alumni involvement, I wanted to introduce myself and say some words about my involvement with the fraternity. The name’s Taylor Barnett, and I’m originally from Nashville, Tennessee. I had spent most of my childhood growing up in the South, but after having traveled around a bit and spent some time abroad in England and Chile while in high school, I decided to begin a new chapter in my life and venture north to much more frigid and, along those lines, political climates to come to Georgetown to study foreign languages. Freshman year at Georgetown was awesome: We had not one but two cafeterias, Darnall Hall was actually habitable, Philly P’s ruled the world of late night pizza, and snaps were ginger and oh-so delightful holiday treats and not your worst enemy on a Saturday night.  I got so excited coming here I joined no less than two dozen clubs at SAC Fair…and then proceeded to quit pretty much all of them, except for your standard Hoya Blue, NSO, and ESCAPE, to mention a few. And to be honest I’m glad I did, because it afforded me the option of pursuing other options outside of Georgetown, such as teaching ESL every week in Adams Morgan, working at the Whitman Walker HIV/AIDS clinic,  as well as getting to enjoy DC and see the sights. Armed with my SmarTrip card in hand, I’d go all over the district and even up to the University of Maryland in nearby College Park to visit some of my high school friends, one of whom was in fact a SigEp. That’s how I first got introduced to the fraternity, and when he told me that a chapter at Georgetown had just opened and they were looking for new brothers to join I thought, “why not?” They seemed like cool people, and who doesn’t like hanging out with cool people? So during the fall of my sophomore year I came out to some of the recruitment events and, whaddayaknow, I became a SigEp.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect, especially with an organization just a few months old that had less than two dozen members and that then the university was resistant to accept, much less even recognize. I mean, when I came to college joining a fraternity was the last thing I had considered doing, but looking back I’m so glad and thankful I did. I saw DC Gamma start off from very humble beginnings and grow almost a decade later into a fortified and resounding brotherhood. Every aspect of SigEp, from the rituals and challenges to the retreats and formals, helped to make my years in college some of the best years I’ve had, and that included right up to my graduation, when just three days before my commencement ceremony I presented to the hospital for continuous ringing in my ears (we call it in the med biz “tinnitus”). Three hours after walking in the doors of the ER, I was diagnosed with metastatic testicular cancer that had spread to lymph nodes and parenchyma of the lungs, abdominal aorta, and spleen.  Yeah, that pretty much a huge dampening on the graduation week festivities. (if you want to read more about my story, head over to and take a look at the Fall 2008 copy of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Journal). Nevertheless, I immediately had surgery and left the hospital the next day. And what’s more, I was thankfully able to make it to my graduation ceremony two days later and then to Europe a few days later for a three-week trip with five other DC Gamma brothers. Having to pass up on three job offers and spend instead the summer getting chemotherapy for about ten hours a day wasn’t necessarily on my to-do list then, but I have to say the support that poured in from the chapter was truly amazing. Now, over five years later, I’m glad to say I’m still in remission and the needles and alopecia are in the past.

Since graduating Georgetown and finishing surgery and chemotherapy, I worked a number of jobs, such as an interpreter for a local hospital, a high school foreign language teacher, and even an airplane pilot. But with all that I had just been through with the cancer, I gave medicine another thought and decided to apply to medical school. I got a scholarship to go medical school back in my home, the great Dixie motherland, at the University of Tennessee, where in addition to studying disease and then preparing to annihilate it in the hospital, I got involved with our student run Spanish speaking clinic for the uninsured Hispanic population of the city and even became clinic leader by my fourth year. And now, I’ve moved over two thousand miles away and am currently doing my residency at Scripps Hospital in San Diego, California, with hopes of someday  going into oncology so I can help other patients affected by cancer who may not be as fortunate as I have been. And I just took another step further with my career and joined the U.S. Air Force, for which I’ll be working after I finish my medical training as a flight surgeon and urgent care doctor.

One thing I want to get across to all fellow brothers is this: your role in SigEp does not stop at graduation. SigEp is something that will be a part of you far beyond your four years of college, and in fact some of my best and most meaningful experiences in SigEp were as an alumnus. When I left Georgetown, the nurse that took care of me while I was getting chemotherapy was a SigEp. My peer mentor in medical school was a SigEp from Vanderbilt. I’ve even been able to travel the world with many DC Gamma brothers, from France and Spain to most recently spring break in Hawaii.  And I still try to make it back to the Hilltop every so often to revisit the chapter and meet all of the new brothers. The journey has indeed been absolutely spectacular, and now I’m living in one of the coolest cities in the country, taking in all of San Diego’s glorious three “Bs” — beaches, breweries, and burritos  — while having the humbling privilege of taking care of patients from all walks of life, from surfer dudes and Marine recruits to the elderly homeless and immigrants coming in from across the border, and being a part of what is without a doubt the best and most noble profession there is. I even have several SigEps as patients in my clinic and am now the godfather to twins I once delivered whose father was a SigEp. And the best part of it all is that my roommate is none other than fellow brother Kevin Parvaresh, who was in my Sigma class at Georgetown and now is an orthopedic surgery resident at UCSD. Obviously, even a decade after joining SigEp, the fraternity and brotherhood indeed still have an impact on my life, and I think today I’m a better leader, a better doctor, and a better man for it.

I’ve seen DC Gamma take off light a rocket since its very beginnings. It has emerged as a prominent leader on the Georgetown campus in academics, athletics, community service, and so much more. Consistently the chapter ranks among the top of many other campus organizations in fundraising for Georgetown’s annual Relay for Life ceremony, which donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to the American Cancer Society. I’m astounded at what the current undergraduate brothers have done not only in their own individual fields of study and organizations on campus but also together as a brotherhood to make DC Gamma into a powerhouse of excellence on the Hilltop. Indeed, for anyone considering joining the fraternity, I’d say that if you’re looking to make your college years meaningful, wanting not to live your life in the background but rather in the spotlight and become a stronger leader and contributing member of society, and to learn how to do so and succeed at such in the company of some amazing guys from all over the country and world, SigEp DC Gamma is what you seek. Come to the recruitment events, meet the brothers, and ask them why they wanted to be a SigEp – they may have joined for different reasons, but you’ll see that what ultimately makes them stay is the brotherhood. And for those of you who’ve already made the wise decision to become a part of the brotherhood, understand that there is so much more to SigEp than what you have and experience during your years at Georgetown. As it has been so for me, SigEp will be with you far longer than your time in college. There is now a network of over several dozen DC Gamma alumni in all different career fields located all over the globe, from California and New York to Algeria and Kenya, who are devoted to giving back to the chapter and helping out younger brothers in any way they can. Never hesitate to reach out to any of them for whatever you may need, and if you’ll do you’ll be astounded by what they’ve accomplished and realize just how strong and amazing the SigEp DC Gamma brotherhood is.

Again, my door’s always open if you ever want to reach out to me with your thoughts and questions, and I will see you back home on the Hilltop soon.