Ohio American Legion Commander Roger Friend has requested the resignation of two members involved with muting retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter's speech on Memorial Day

By Jason Duaine Hahn
June 03, 2021 08:27 PM
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A Memorial Day ceremony in Ohio has caused a stir after a 77-year-old veteran was cut off mid-speech while talking about the role Black Americans played in honoring the dead following the conclusion of the Civil War.

According to the Akron Beacon Journal, retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter was the keynote speaker at a Memorial Day ceremony hosted by the Hudson American Legion Lee-Bishop Post 464 on Monday in Hudson, Ohio.

But shortly after he began his 11-minute speech, Kemter's microphone stopped working as he discussed the history of Memorial Day and the freed Black enslaved people who helped commemorate the holiday following the Union's triumph over the Confederacy.

"The ceremony is believed to have included a parade of as many as 10,000 people, including 3,000 African American schoolchildren singing the Union marching song, 'John Brown's Body,'" Kemter said in his speech. "They were carrying armfuls of flowers and went to decorate at the graves."

Retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter
Credit: Hudson Community Television/Vimeo

Footage of the incident, provided by Hudson Community Television, show Kemter telling organizers about the problem after his mic was cut.

"I assumed it was a technical glitch," Kemter told the Washington Post.

Despite being muted, Kemter continued on with his speech, inciting people to move closer to hear him.

As the Beacon Journal reported, the event's organizers admitted they had turned off Kemter's microphone on purpose since the portion of his speech about Black history was "not relevant for the program."

"We asked him to modify his speech, and he chose not to do that," Cindy Suchan, president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary, said in comments made to the Beacon Journal.

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The American Legion Post 464 did not respond to PEOPLE's request for comment, and instead directed inquiries to the Ohio American Legion. The organization has not responded.

Suchan told the Beacon Journal that either she or member Jim Garrison, adjutant of American Legion Lee-Bishop Post 464, was the one to mute Kemper's microphone.

She did not specify who was the one to lower the volume. Garrison declined to comment further when reached by the Akron Beacon Journal

In a post to their Twitter account on Thursday, the Ohio American Legion said Commander Roger Friend has requested the resignation of Suchan and Garrison from Post 464.

"A full investigation and Charter of this Post are pending with the Department Executive Board," the tweet said.

Kemter told the Washington Post he had hoped the story would shine a light on an important moment of history. His speech was well-received by many of the 300 in attendance, he said.

"Throughout history, there has been a lot of claims about who actually performed the first Memorial Day service," Kemter explained. "With this speech, I chose to educate people as to the origin of Memorial Day and why we were celebrating it."