From a Nigerian-American on Memorial Day to my father, veteran officer, Biafran Infantry and my father-in-law, veteran, U.S. Navy (served in Vietnam). They and others like them, then and now, are the reason I have myself never had to experience the horrors of war.

There are no voices over ordered rows of stone,
Visitors silent over silent hosts,
And, dotted nationwide at work or recreation,
The quiet few who lend voice to comrade ghosts.
No more than honest pride at our acclaim
That they went to serve when we called their name.

They don’t emerge from our deciding classes
They didn’t make the causes of their fight;
In history no power is ever perfect
But none has faced such auditing of might.
Never again should we turn unjust blame
On those who went to serve when we called their name.

Most go to embrace the opportunity
That is the substance of our nation,
Some come from overseas offering lives to
Citizen peers, bravest form of immigration.
Bitter worry scars all families the same;
Yet they go to serve when we call their name.

These are America’s resource of conscience
Which in returning stocks our wherewithal—
Some with wounds we see, some which we don’t,
And some in not returning home at all.
Our energy is marshaled in the flame
Of those who went to serve when we called their name.

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UCHE OGBUJI is a founding editor of the TNB Poetry section. He is also co-creator and co-host of the Poetry Voice podcast. His short collection of poems Ndewo, Colorado (Aldrich Press, 2013) is a winner of the 2014 Colorado Book Awards.

To expand a bit, Uche Ogbuji was born in Calabar, Nigeria. He lived, among other places, in Egypt and England before settling near Boulder, Colorado where he lives with his wife and four children. Uche is a computer engineer (trained in Nigeria and the USA) and entrepreneur whose abiding passion is poetry. His poems, fusing Igbo culture, European Classicism, U.S. Mountain West setting, and Hip-Hop influences, have appeared widely. Uche also snowboards, coaches and plays soccer, and trains in American Kenpo. You can catch more of the prolifically fraying strands of his life on his home page, or, heck, even on Twitter.

5 responses to “When we Called Their Name”

  1. Irene Zion says:

    Powerful, Uche. I wish my Dad could have read it.

  2. Judy Prince says:

    Thank you, Uche, for this moving poem.

  3. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Thanks Irene and Judy. Glad you enjoyed it.

  4. sheree says:

    And some come from the wombs of mothers who never wanted them. Many orphans serve in the military and I wonder if anyone at all remembers them after their gone.
    Great poem. Thanks for the powerful read.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Thanks so much, Sheree. I suppose all that can be said of orphans who serve then die in combat is that in the togetherness of units they might have found their some of whatever they might have missed of family, including someone to nurture their memory.

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