Sigma Tau Alpha, a co-ed fraternity that ‘Has Your Six’

%28Left+to+right%29+Eddy+Coneche%2C+Jimmy+Guevara%2C+Manny+Garcia%2C+Victoria+Morales%2C+Chris+Hayes+at+the+VRC+Center.+Photo+credit%3A+Stacey+Arevalo
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Sigma Tau Alpha, a co-ed fraternity that ‘Has Your Six’

(Left to right) Eddy Coneche, Jimmy Guevara, Manny Garcia, Victoria Morales, Chris Hayes at the VRC Center. Photo credit: Stacey Arevalo

(Left to right) Eddy Coneche, Jimmy Guevara, Manny Garcia, Victoria Morales, Chris Hayes at the VRC Center. Photo credit: Stacey Arevalo

(Left to right) Eddy Coneche, Jimmy Guevara, Manny Garcia, Victoria Morales, Chris Hayes at the VRC Center. Photo credit: Stacey Arevalo

(Left to right) Eddy Coneche, Jimmy Guevara, Manny Garcia, Victoria Morales, Chris Hayes at the VRC Center. Photo credit: Stacey Arevalo

Stacey Arevalo

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Like brothers and sisters at a dinner table, they often broke out in laughter poking fun at each other while sharing inside jokes. Protective, yet playful and with an upbeat spirit that shined brighter than the yellow in the embroidered fraternity emblems they proudly wore.

With only 11 active members, Sigma Tau Alpha is a tight-knit family regardless of age differences and diverse backgrounds. What binds them together are their experiences in the armed forces.

Founded in 2013 by five student veterans, Sigma Tau Alpha was created with a unique and distinct mission: to help their members transition from veterans to scholars.

“They wanted to recreate a brotherhood and sisterhood that they felt they had in the military,” said Manny Garcia, the 28-year-old former Marine and president for the 2016-17 year. “We are the founding chapter and only chapter, a support system and another avenue that veterans can rely on as some of us are trying to find a new identity.”

The student organization also connects their members to other off-campus resources like the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) organization and Army One Source. The group is also associated with The Soldiers Project which provides mental healthcare for post 9/11 veterans and their families.

“We’re unique in the way that our original first 4-year college experience was in the military,” said Jimmy Guevara, a 33-year-old member, previous president and former Marine. “There we were trained to become one thing, but not trained to become another once we left. Here we make sure to catch each other before we fall down.”

Sigma Tau Alpha also offers study groups and pushes its members to uphold the military lifestyle, codes of conduct and academic standards like a minimum 2.0 GPA, for example. They are also in constant collaboration with other sororities and fraternities that want to contribute to the military culture, Garcia said.

“We’re not in our own island either” Garcia said. “We welcome everyone and you don’t have to have served to join. We have ‘allies’ in our group, like our V.P.”

Victoria Morales, a 20-year-old supporter and one of the few women in the fraternity said she is interested in possibly joining the National Guard or Air Force at some point and has found guidance in the group.

“Being around people from different branches has given me a different perspective rather than just getting information from my dad, brother or grandfather,” Morales said.

Garcia also said she was raised around guys and she believed Sigma Tau Alpha would be a roughhouse, but everyone broke the stereotypes because they were just people.

Eddy Coneche, a 27-year member of United States Army Reserve has enjoyed the educational, emotional and financial resources at Sigma Tau Alpha.

“You come out and you’re all alone and don’t know what to do and the sad fact is that some people go into depression and they even commit suicide,” Coneche said. “If you come into a group and actively engage within your lifestyle you definitely have something to do and not be depressed.”

Coneche also seeks to defy the stereotypes of military men together with the other members.

“We want to break out of the norm and the stigma that we hear all the time that everyone in the military is a macho man. Not everyone in the military has PTSD and is crazy,” Coneche said. “We’re family men, brothers, sisters, sons, fathers, some with a few bumps in the road but we’re here to help.”

Chris Hayes a 22-year-old National Guard active member also invite students to communicate with the group and with other veterans as well.

“Students tend to perceive [us] as more aggressive and may be reluctant to approach us but we’re like anyone else,” Hayes said. “If you get to know us you can see that we are social, can play around and build a friendship. We’re just like you and if you make an effort we can establish something.”

For now, Sigma Tau Alpha is taking life one day at the time, but as they continue to establish themselves, they hope to continue to strengthen their outreach and continue helping their community.

“They have my back, or as we say in the military ‘they have my six’ and they’re my other family out here in the real world,” Coneche said. “Our direction is always forward as we leave six o’clock behind.”