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 forming what we now know as Memorial Day.
“Memorial Day was first commemorated by a group of freed Black slaves,” Kemter said during his speech Monday.
WEWS was provided an original copy of Kemter's complete speech. Read it here.
As the veteran continued and began talking about the Black community's role in the origins of Memorial Day, his microphone was cut off, which Kemter recognized, but he kept going and spoke louder.
Watch the 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 mic was cut 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.
News 5 reached out to leaders of that American Legion post. We haven’t heard back.
But the Hudson American Legion Auxillary president told our partners at the Akron Beacon Journal that 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 the 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.
Bob Jones and Ian Cross from WEWS first reported this story.