Hudson American Legion Official Cut Mic on Retired Army Colonel’s Memorial Day Speech

American Legion Lee-Bishop Post 464, Hudson, Ohio — A Hudson American Legion official cut the microphone on retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter as he was giving a background on the origins of Memorial Day. The official has resigned his position, and the Ohio American Legion is also moving to dissolve the charter of the local group.

Lt Col Kemter was speaking of one of the origins of Memorial Day that involved a group of freed Black slaves who honored Fallen Civil War soldiers. The Hudson American Legion official, Adjutant Jim Garrison and Cindy Suchan, President of the Hudson American Legion Auxilliary pre-planned the censorship of Kemter’s speech. When asked which one did it, Suchan refused to say whether it was her or Garrison. The State of Ohio American legion department commander has moved to pull the charter of the group.

But organizers of the ceremony in Hudson, Ohio, said that section of the speech was not relevant to the program’s theme of honoring the city’s veterans…

Garrison resigned his leadership position a day after the state organization demanded he step down, said Roger Friend, department commander for the Ohio American Legion. Garrison has since been asked to drop his membership altogether, Friend said.

“The American Legion Department of Ohio does not hold space for members, veterans, or families of veterans who believe that censoring black history is acceptable behavior,” Friend said in a statement.

He said the censoring was premeditated and planned by Garrison and Suchan.

“They knew exactly when to turn the volume down and when to turn it back up,” Friend said.

In the days before the ceremony, Suchan said she reviewed the speech and asked Kemter to remove certain portions. Kemter said he didn’t see the suggested changes in time to rewrite the speech.

LtCol Kemter (ret) spent 30 years in the US Army and served in the Persian Gulf War. He is 77 years old. People were extremely unhappy that he was censored – everyone from Ohio American Legion leadership to the Mayor of Hudson. Here are portions of his speech:

“More importantly than whether Charleston’s Decoration Day was the first, is the attention Charleston’s Black community paid to the nearly 260 Union troops who died at the site. For two weeks prior to the ceremony, former slaves and Black workmen exhumed the soldiers’ remains from a hastily dug mass grave behind the racetrack’s grandstand and gave each soldier a proper burial. They also constructed a fence to protect the site with an archway at the entrance that read “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

The dead prisoners of war at the racetrack must have seemed especially worthy of honor to the former slaves. Just as the former slaves had, the dead prisoners had suffered imprisonment and mistreatment while held captive by white southerners. Not surprisingly, many white southerners who had supported the Confederacy, including a large swath of white Charlestonians, did not feel compelled to spend a day decorating the graves of their former enemies. It was often the African American southerners who perpetuated the holiday in the years immediately following the Civil War.

African Americans across the South clearly helped shape the ceremony in its early years. Without African Americans, the ceremonies would have had far fewer in attendance in many areas, thus making the holiday less significant.” excerpts of LtCol Kemter’s censored speech

Whether or not the American Legion official agreed with the content of the speech is irrelevant. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech. Censoring Kemter’s history of the Memorial Day remembrance didn’t set well with the Mayor of Hudson, either.

“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.”

excerpt from statement by the Mayor and city council of Hudson

LtCol Kemter said that he was disappointed that the Hudson American Legion officials chose to censor his speech.

“This is not the same country I fought for. It’s a situation that I think people are a little upset at the censorship. I’m sad that it happened, and I’m sorry what I spoke did not agree with some individuals.”

LtCol Kemter


Featured photo: Screenshot via Hudson Community News

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