HUDSON, Ohio — In his Memorial Day speech at Markillie Cemetery, retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter, a graduate of Hudson High School, wanted to recognize the role African-Americans played in the formation of what we now know as Memorial Day.
However, many in crowd could not hear his entire message after his microphone was cut off.
Kempter referenced historians from Harvard when he said, “Memorial Day was first commemorated by an organized group of freed black slaves less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered."
News 5 was provided an original copy of Kemter's complete speech. Read it here.
Just before Kemter expanded on how the black community paid tribute to Union troops, his microphone was cut off--which Kemter recognized-- but he kept going and spoke louder.
Watch video of Kemter's speech in the video player below, as recorded by Hudson Community Television. Kemter's microphone is cut off at around the 50-minute mark.
Kemter said the volume was turned down for about two minutes by someone affiliated with American Legion Lee-Bishop Post 464.
The veteran is perplexed and angry over what happened.
“I’m sad that it happened, and I’m sorry what I spoke did not agree with some individuals,” he said.
The Ohio American League is planning on investigating and has asked for the officers to resign.
The American Legion of Ohio, Commander Roger Friend, has requested the resignation of Post Officers James Garrison and Cindy Suchan of Hudson American Legion Post 464. A full investigation and Charter of this Post are pending with the Department Executive Board.— Ohio American Legion (@Ohio_Legion) June 3, 2021
But the president of the Hudson American Legion Auxillary told our partners at the Akron Beacon Journal the volume was turned down because “it was not relevant to our program for the day” and the “theme of the day was honoring Hudson veterans.”
“It’s a situation that I think people are a little upset at the censorship,” Kemter said.
The City of Hudson condemned the muting of Kemter’s microphone in a statement that reads, in part:
“The Mayor of Hudson and Hudson City Council are disheartened to learn that the American Legion turned the sound off for a portion of retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter’s speech during the Legion’s Memorial Day Ceremony. The Legion explained that mentioning the role that people of color played in history of Memorial Day was ‘not relevant to our program for the day.’
“We condemn the actions taken by the American Legion to censor the comments of Lt. Col. Kemter. The decision disrespected the Lt. Col. who has valiantly served our country and was there to honor veterans in his speech, and it disrespected all Hudson and American veterans nationwide who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the freedoms we value as Americans.
“The people who came to honor the brave men and women who died for our country were deprived of hearing the totality of comments the speaker intended as he honored America’s fallen. Veterans have done everything we have asked of them during their service to this country, and this tarnished what should have been a celebration of their service.”
In a statement, the American Legion Department of Ohio confirmed “events culminated in Mr. Kemter’s microphone being shut off by an unknown person,” and it’s investigating the incident thoroughly, which pleases Kemter.
“I think it’s the right thing for them to do,” he said.
Judi Hill, the president of the Akron Chapter of the NAACP, feels the incident at the cemetery was insulting and an attempt to negate history.
"It goes to show you how individuals don't want to accept the way history really was. There were many people who helped build this country," Hill said. "I hate to say this, but I thank them for showing us who they really are. I thank them for helping everybody in America see that we still have issues that we need to address."