Veterans Day 2022: Stories from GUMC Student Veterans

An American flag on a flagpole viewed from the ground against a partly sunny sky
(Image: Brandon Day on Unsplash)

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(November 11, 2022) — Georgetown University is home to over 1,200 military-connected students, including current service members, veterans and military families. On Veterans Day — and throughout the year — we honor their service to our country. We introduce you to a few current and former students who credit their time in the service with their post-military achievements.

Kellie Bailey (G’18)

Retired Army Capt. Kellie McArdle
Kellie Bailey (G’18)

Kellie Bailey, RN, CNL, graduated from Georgetown’s Clinical Nurse Leader Master of Science program in 2018 after military training piqued her interest in the health field. After a circuitous journey, she now works at a psychiatric hospital as part of an electroconvulsive therapy unit.

Inspired in part by her father’s service, Bailey enlisted in the Army at the age of 28 after graduating with a degree in architecture from Smith College and receiving a master’s degree from Trinity College Dublin in international peace studies.

Despite her academic success, Bailey felt professionally unfulfilled and was driven to find a career in which she felt she was helping people. She found that personal and professional fulfillment in the military, first as an intelligence analyst and then as an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) officer after completing Officer Candidate School. Never someone to shy away from a challenge, Bailey chose EOD because it was exciting and dangerous.

“I really loved being an EOD officer,” she said. “It’s still a very male-dominated arena, but I loved the work.”

Being an EOD officer also first sparked Bailey’s interest in medicine.

Kellie McArdle in Army uniform
Bailey in Iraq as an EOD officer

“I had zero interest in medicine while in college,” she said. “But as an EOD officer, I was trained to be a medic. I learned how to insert an IV and other basic lifesaving skills before being deployed, and I started to see the medical field as something I could be fulfilled in doing.”

Before leaving the Army as a captain, Bailey deployed for a year to Iraq.

“Being on the streets of Iraq as a female platoon leader taught me how to engage with a variety of people in a given circumstance, even if I disagree with what is happening,” she said.

Bailey believes her time in the Army gave her the confidence to speak with those in management positions and the grace to engage with those entrusted to her care.

Bailey, the mother of twins, even considered applying for a waiver to be a nurse in the Navy after completing her studies at Georgetown at the age of 42 — just a year over the cutoff age of 41. “I guess the urge to serve my country never left me,” she said.

Casey Cardillo (M’24)

Retired Navy Lt. Casey Cardillo
Casey Cardillo (M’24)

Retired Navy Lt. Casey Cardillo hails from Long Island, New York, where four out of his family’s six children served in the Navy. After graduating from Notre Dame on an ROTC scholarship, Cardillo received his commission as a Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy.

Cardillo served 5 1/2 years in the Navy and was stationed on two ships, the USS Green Bay and the USS John Finn. While stationed on the USS Green Bay, he was deployed for eight months with the 7th Fleet in the South China Sea and Western Pacific Ocean. At the end of his deployment, Cardillo received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

“Assuming such huge responsibilities at a young age — I was a 22-year-old college graduate in charge of 20 sailors — makes you a different person,” said Cardillo. “You have to become a very mature person quickly to handle those responsibilities.”

As a “plankowner” on the USS John Finn, a title given to all sailors and officers who are members of the first crew when a ship is commissioned, Cardillo sailed the brand-new destroyer from where it was built in Mississippi through the Panama Canal and into its home port of San Diego. At the end of his tour, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.

Casey Cardillo in uniform
Cardillo on commission day of the USS John Finn in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

While transitioning out of active duty as a lieutenant, Cardillo applied to medical school. He credits the military’s chain of command with helping him adjust to the world of medicine.

“While in the military, I interacted with sailors from across the country with all different kinds of backgrounds,” Cardillo said. “That experience working with a range of people prepared me to provide compassionate care for all people.”

He also cites the skills he learned in the Navy, including attention to detail, composure under pressure, and the ability to act decisively, as critical for his success in medical school.

Cardillo stays connected to the Navy by volunteering to run in races supporting veterans.

Owen Sisbarro (M’23)

Retired Marine Corps Maj. Owen Sisbarro, MS, began his career in the Marine Corps as an 18-year-old enlisted infantryman before moving to Force Recon. After being selected for an enlisted officer training program, which allows enlisted marines to complete their undergraduate degrees while on active duty, he received his commission after graduating with a degree in earth science at the University of Colorado at Denver.

Owen Sisbarro
Owen Sisbarro (M’23)

While on campus at the University of Colorado, Sisbarro met Navy Nurse Corps students who initially piqued his interest in medicine. “After my experience in undergrad, I kept in the back of mind that I would pursue medical training after the marine corps. While doing Force Recon, I received medical training and realized it was something I was interested in,” he said.

Sisbarro transitioned to aviation for the remainder of his career in the Marine Corps, first as a helicopter pilot and then as an aviation liaison. He also did tours in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sisbarro maintained the intellectual itch for medicine. “Every chance I had to talk with a medic, flight surgeon or nurse, I would just talk and pick their brain about a medical career,” he said.

As his accomplished active-duty career of over 26 years started to wind down, Sisbarro took the MCAT and applied to medical school multiple times. “I had trouble getting into medical school,” he said. “It took multiple attempts, but one of the greatest things the military taught me was to persevere.”

Now in his final year of medical school, Sisbarro appreciates the full life he lived before he began. “My life experiences are absolutely an advantage in a clinical setting,” he said. “I think I’m better able to empathize with patients because I’ve experienced the fullness of life, from tragedy to elation, from losing friends at a young age to the joy of childbirth.”

Sisbarro admits that his children are only a couple of years younger than some of his current classmates. One of his children is currently a lance corporal in the Marine Corps, and his wife is still active duty, serving as a major in the Marine Corps.

Sisbarro hopes his story inspires other veterans interested in a medical career to persevere like he did. “Don’t be afraid to attempt to do something because you don’t think you have the right resume,” he said. “Try anyway and don’t be afraid of rejection.”

Heather Wilpone-Welborn
GUMC Communications