Sarge the Suave—Vietnam War vet and community treasure
OLAYEMI ODESANYA | 9/7/2017, 5:09 p.m.
A former Vietnam veteran who goes by Sarge, aka “Joe Driver” can be seen on Fulton Street (Harriet Ross Tubman Avenue) and Marcy Avenue, looking sharp as ever. The 80-year-old is a Bedford-Stuyvesant native, and only lives a few blocks where he was spotted in his purple-pink striped suit with revolutionary leaders’ buttons. The well-known elder in the community was greeted by many locals as we spoke outside the Restoration Plaza.
“Every time I wear a suit like this, I get a lot of attention,” Sarge told the Amsterdam News as he basked in the sun. “Everyone just wants to take pictures of me and ask me questions about my lifestyle, but I just tell them, ‘I’m just a simple Bed-Stuy guy enjoying the summer weather.’”
Sarge was born in Atlanta, moved into New York in the 1960s and has lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant since the 1970s.
The friendly elder is a college-grad and encourages youths to follow a similar path. “Education is key!” he declared. “Make sure you take advantage of all the educational opportunities that comes along because you never know what tomorrow brings.”
Sarge has 12 children, 17 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. “I will always embolden them to do well in school and focus on their studies,” he said. “You can lose a lot of things, but no one can ever take your intelligence away.”
In 1964, Sarge enlisted in the military. For three years, he fought in the Vietnam War. “I don’t necessarily like talking about it because I end up feeling bad,” Sarge explained, “All of those innocent people killed off because of that war.”
Before he went to war, he worked at a furniture store for approximately five years. It was his first job, he recalled, and he stocked and delivered furniture throughout Bed-Stuy and Clinton Hill. The furniture store is currently located on Fulton and Bedford but is now under new management.
“For the most part, I enjoyed working at the furniture store,” said Sarge. “I worked with nice people, and they paid well. There was only one time I faced trouble, when the store was being robbed and the robbers told me that they ‘only rob white people.’ They just continuously kept telling me, they wasn’t after me.”
Sarge continued, “I have to say, I was relieved, yet still in shock. But it’s been so long since I thought about that night. Actually, it was about 47 years! Ever since then, the furniture store wasn’t ever the same.”
Sarge is also a pastor at the Word of God Ministries in the Bronx. He has been the pastor for approximately 10 years. He has been preaching at various churches throughout the city. “I enjoy enlightening people about Christianity,” he said. “It is so important for people to practice what they believe in. Because I believe in God, I think it’s only right to preach other Christians about the Word of God.”