Also, at least one official who was involved in Monday’s Memorial Day event where the keynote speaker’s microphone was turned down when he spoke about freed Black slaves honoring soldiers that died in the Civil War, will resign.
Suzette Heller, Department Adjutant with the American Legion Department of Ohio, confirmed to the I-Team Friday that the one official involved in the event informed her he was resigning and that the Post is closing. She added the commander of that Post is also resigning.
The resignations come less than 24 hours after the officials with the American Legion Department of Ohio started investigating Monday’s Memorial Day event.
American Legion of Ohio, Commander Roger Friend, on Thursday requested the resignation of two officers of Hudson American Legion Post 464 that organized the event.
Friend also stated in a letter asking for the resignations that a full investigation and the charter of this post are pending with the Department Executive Board.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter, 77, told the FOX 8 I-Team that he was only trying to share some history about how Memorial Day started. He said he was completely “shocked and surprised” to learn his microphone was turned down for about two minutes when he started speaking about freed Black slaves honoring soldiers that died during the Civil War.
A.J. Stokes, the event’s audio engineer, said he was asked by officials with Post 464 to turn off Kemter’s microphone during the speech. He said he refused and one of the organizer’s turned down the volume for about two minutes.
The I-Team also received a one-page letter that appears to be sent to the state American Legion from officials with Post 464 explaining what took place Monday.
“It appeared that Mr. Kemter was making a distinction between Black soldiers and their families and white soldiers and their families before Memorial Day was created,” the letter states.
“Not being sure of what racially charged comments the speaker might make, the volume was reduced on the microphone. The microphone volume was restored when he returned to the issue of remembering the men & women who have given their lives in defense of our great country. It was an attempt to avoid racial speech in a ceremony planned to honor our town’s fallen heroes. The speaker was not asked to stop. He gave his entire speech. While we acknowledge that the contributions of Black men and women in the military are often overlooked, the purpose of the 2021 Memorial Day Ceremony was to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and not to bring race into the discussion. We recognize the sacrifice of all men and women, regardless of the color of their skin.”
In the letter asking for the resignation, Friend said they reviewed Lt. Col. Kemter’s speech and found “no issues regarding Black soldiers, white soldiers, or any kind of race matters, when discussing the history of the creation of Memorial Day.”
State American Legion officials suspended Post 464 until it is permanently closed. They also demanded the official involved with the incident resign, saying the American Legion Department of Ohio does not hold space for those who believe “censoring Black history is acceptable behavior.”