After his first tour of duty ended, Sahib soon realized that his passion was to serve and protect the country. He altered his career plans by re-enlisting again.
On May 18, 2003, while Sahib and a fellow soldier were cleaning their weapons in Iraq, the other soldier’s gun discharged and the bullet struck Sahib in the chest. He passed away at the age of 22, 48 days into his second tour of duty.
Now 15 years after his death, Sahib’s family can see his name everyday on the corner of Woodbine Street and Irving Avenue in Bushwick.
The co-naming event was emotional for his family and friends. Sahib’s mother, Fizoon Ashraf, said she still says her eldest son’s name about “50 times a day.”
“I can still remember him saying, ‘Mom, I’m going to come home back, I’ll be okay,’” Ashraf said. “I’m happy for this day and I know my son is in the sky right now, watching over me. He’s not just a kid or a son, he’s a hero.”
Sahib, a native of Guyana, moved to Bushwick with his mother and younger sister, Nafeeza, shortly after their father passed away.
“It was just me and him for a while, before my mom remarried and had our brother and sister,” Nafeeza said. “Some brothers and sisters fight, but we never fought and he would actually get mad if anyone did anything to me.
“He was the type of brother who, if I got in trouble with my mom, he would take the blame,” she added. “We had that bond because we didn’t have our dad, we leaned on each other. He was three years older and protective.”
Nafeeza got married 14 years ago, but has kept her maiden name in honor of her brother. She has three children of her own and thinks her brother would’ve spoiled them if he were still alive.
She and her family share stories of Sahib so her kids know what he was like.
His mother insisted that he was the kind of son that people dream of. He loved to help and smiled so much that he was given the nickname “Smiley” by friends and family. Some of his passions included rapping, drawing comic strips, and following the New York Yankees.
Ashraf added that there was a shooting in Bushwick recently, and when two officers rang her doorbell seeking surveillance camera footage, she had an immediate flashback to two military officers standing at her front door to inform her of her son’s death.
“Every little thing affects me now, I’m always crying and getting flashbacks and I can’t watch sad things or the news,” Ashraf said. “I still miss him everyday. I don’t know how I have the strength, but I think my son is giving me the strength.”
The family has been seeking a street co-naming since Sahib’s death, and grew frustrated over the years when it didn’t happen.
“We’ve been trying but everyone was beating around the bush and saying it takes a while, but other Gold Star families were able to do it,” Nafeeza said. “We got fed up with it, and we asked Carey if he could help us out and we got it accomplished.”
“Carey” is Colonel Carey J. McCarthy, who delivered the news of Sahib’s death to his family and has been in touch with the family ever since.
“His daughter and my daughter were born at the same time, he comes to any of the functions we have, and he keeps in contact with us,” Nafeeza said. “He stuck with us and makes sure that we’re okay.”
According to Sahib’s relatives, McCarthy is part of their family now.
“The nation can ask no higher price than for an individual to sacrifice their life for their country,” McCarthy said. “Rasheed answered that call and we owe him a debt of gratitude, as well as his family, and this street naming pays a small bit of the debt we owe them.”
“Like most heroes, he didn’t seek recognition,” said Councilman Rafael Espinal, who sponsored the legislation to rename the street. “But through his selflessness, his humility and his passion and commitment to doing what was right, he showed what heroism means.”
Parvati Ramphal, a family friend and former neighbor, knew Sahib as a child and later supported him after he sahred his intention to join the Army.
“He was so loving,” Ramphal said. “When we all go to the library across the street, we’ll take the time to see the sign and remember him.”