Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter, 77, was invited to Hudson Veterans Memorial Garden to give a speech on Memorial Day. During his speech he began discuss the history of Memorial Day, when his microphone was abruptly cut off.
“AJ! Mic!” He said to the sound guy thinking it was an accident. What Lt. Col. Kemter didn’t know was the Head of American Legion Post 464 in Ohio had been silenced. “He reached over, and pulled the volume down on my Console.” AJ Stokes, the Live Sound Engineer for the Ceremony stated.
Lt. Col. Kemter responded in a later interview “The purpose of the intent of the speech was informational, as to the origin of the first Memorial Day”
The American Legion of Ohio suspended Post 464, and opened an investigation, resulting in the resignation of two of the Charter Post’s head members.
The American Legion has since issued an apology to Lt. Col. Kemter. The city offered to refilm the entire speech unedited, to which he declined.
He did however agree to publish the entire written speech. The American Legion has also agreed to post it on their website. The full transcript can be found here.
American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford stated “National headquarters is very clear that The American Legion deplores racism and reveres the Constitution. We salute LTC Kemter’s service and his moving remarks about the history of Memorial Day and the important role played by Black Americans in honoring our fallen heroes.”
Unfortunately not every act of American censorship has such a happy ending. It is moments like this that define the direction of our nation, and it’s reassuring to see the American Legion attempt to rectify this censorship tragedy. In a positive light, it may have been the censorship itself that brought his message to so many more people around the world. The importance of free speech, and at least getting the chance to explain yourself if somebody automatically expects the worst. In this case, it was unjustified, but handled well by the suspension of the Post and resignation of the perpetrators.