Last week, retired Army Lt. Col. Barnard Kemter was speaking at a Memorial Day ceremony in Hudson when he began to talk about how freed black slaves had honored fallen soldiers soon after the Civil War.
In the midst of recounting the facts about one of the precursors to what we first called Decoration Day and now call Memorial Day, organizers of the event cut Kemter’s audio.
Kemter, who is white — though it should be unnecessary to note it — was disappointed he was censored, and rightly so. Organizers claimed the part of the speech they shut down was not relevant to the city’s theme of honoring its veterans.
It’s not a good look for Cindy Suchan, chair of the Memorial Day parade committee and president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary, or Jim Garrison, adjutant of American Legion Post 464.
Investigators are trying to find out exactly who turned off the microphone, but the fact remains:
Someone with some authority felt the truth about who made up one of the first groups to honor those who fell in service to ALL Americans was not relevant. Someone thought thinking too hard about the complicated origins of a holiday meant to honor those who sacrificed everything fighting for freedom in a country where we’re still having a hard time with that bit about ALL men being created equal would put a damper on the red, white and blue barbecue they had planned afterward, perhaps.
“The American Legion deplores racism and reveres the Constitution,” the group’s national commander, James W. Oxford, said. “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. We regret any actions taken that detracts from this important message.”
Good for the folks at the national level for taking a stand.
Now it’s time for those in Hudson, who would rather turn off a microphone than hear the truth, to issue an apology to Kemter and to their community.
The fallen they claimed they were honoring on that day deserve better.
— Youngstown Vindicator, June 11