Retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter had an inspiring 11-minute speech planned as the keynote speaker at a Memorial Day event in Hudson, Ohio, including a bit about the history of the holiday. Partway through his address at a local cemetery, however, the microphone cut out for about two minutes. Per the Hill, Kemter could be seen motioning to someone off camera that there was a problem with his mic. "I assumed it was a technical glitch," he tells the Washington Post. Now, however, it appears the sound fail on Monday wasn't an accident—and that it happened as Kemter, 77, talked about the role Black Americans played in establishing Memorial Day. Cindy Suchan, one of the ceremony's organizers and the head of the holiday's parade committee and Hudson's American Legion Auxiliary, tells the Akron Beacon Journal that the mic was purposely turned down as Kemter started talking about freed Black slaves paying tribute to dead soldiers soon after the Civil War ended.
Suchan, who says she'd asked Kemter to remove certain parts of the speech in the days before the ceremony, notes the "theme of the day was honoring Hudson veterans," and that the portion of Kemter's speech that was muted "was not relevant to our program." Kemter, meanwhile, confirms he received an email from an organizer (he wouldn't say who) three days beforehand asking him to remove a section about Black Americans' role in the early setup of the holiday, but that the instructions on what to remove were vague and were never clarified. Suchan wouldn't say whether it was she or another organizer, Jim Garrison, who'd turned down the mic. It definitely wasn't the event's audio engineer, AJ Stokes, who says he was "very upset" about what had transpired. As for Kemter, he notes: "I find it interesting that [the American Legion] ... would take it upon themselves to censor my speech. ... This is not the same country I fought for." The Ohio American Legion is investigating. (Read more Memorial Day stories.)