An Island Tradition
May 2022 Issue
By Kelly Hunter
Photos submitted by SSI Rotary
Memorial Day on St. Simons Island: This phrase conjures images of beach fun and smells of food on the grill. For more than 30 years, however, locals and visitors alike have gathered in Neptune Park for a more somber and holiday-appropriate tradition. Since 1991, the Rotary Club of St. Simons has arranged Taps at Twilight to honor the men and women who have fallen in the service of our country, those who have valiantly served and returned and those who are serving today.
2020 was the only year the program didn’t happen in person, but a fabulous virtual program was arranged and can still be seen on YouTube. Susan Imhoff has chaired the event for four years, and she told us, “Every year it gets better and better!” Last year’s speaker was so popular they have invited him back for 2022. Lieutenant Colonel Steve Bolton will return as keynote speaker with a new message.
Lieutenant Colonel Bolton was born at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and raised in Lawrence, Kansas. He is a Special Forces officer who commissioned Armor in 2004 via Officer Candidate School. Bolton enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1990 and later served as a Special Forces Communications Sergeant in the Colorado and Virginia National Guards. From 1998 to 2004 he served as a Special Forces Detachment Medical Sergeant in C Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Bolton’s initial officer assignment was as a Scout Platoon Leader in Crazy Horse Troop, 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Carson, Colorado. From 2006 to 2017 he served on three occasions with 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Carson, as Executive Officer and later Commander of A Company; Commander of Operational Detachment – Alpha 0322 in B Company; and as the Battalion Assistant Operations and Operations Officer. He later served with 4th Infantry Division as the Special Operations Integrator. He arrived in 2020 from NATO Special Operations Headquarters at SHAPE, Belgium, where he served as Aide-de-Camp to the Commander and as a J5 Planner. He is currently the Garrison Commander of Hunter Army Airfield.
He has deployed for operations in Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Djibouti and Tchad, and to five South and Central American partner nations for security cooperation activities. LTC Bolton and his wife, Brooke, have three amazing children: daughter Olivia and sons Reilly and Tristan.
While Lieutenant Colonel Bolton’s address will certainly be the focus of the Memorial Day event, there is much more to the program at the St. Simons Casino Bandstand in Neptune Park. From 5:45p.m. to the official start of the program at 6:45 p.m., the Golden Isles Community Band will be playing a selection of patriotic music. After the welcome statement, Leslie Mattingly will sing the National Anthem. The Wreath Presentation will be accompanied by Scott Townley on the bagpipes. Immediately following the keynote address, The Celebration Singers Youth Choir from First United Methodist Church in Tucker, Georgia, will sing favorite patriotic songs.
Finally, the program will close with Taps, played by Ann Marie Stirewalt of the Golden Isles Brass Choir. Taps is the most easily recognized and emotionally significant of the military bugle calls. The music for Taps was adapted by Union General Daniel Butterfield for his brigade in July 1862. With the help of Oliver Wilcox Norton, the brigade bugler, Butterfield wrote Taps to honor his men while in camp at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia. The first use of Taps was at a funeral during the Peninsular Campaign of 1862. Captain John C. Tidball of Battery A, 2nd Artillery ordered it played for the burial of a cannoneer killed in action.
Anyone present for the Retirement of the Colors and the playing of Taps as the day fades and the sunlight slowly leaves our Golden Isles will attest to the incredible emotions evoked. Be sure to bring a chair and insect repellant on Monday, May 30th. We also advise arriving early, as this popular event draws large crowds and parking can be challenging.
You Can Help:
The Rotary Club of St. Simons Island generates funds for Taps at Twilight through its year-round sales of commemorative bricks for Veterans’ Walk (surrounding the flagpole in front of the Casino bandstand) and the sale of flags to local businesses and individuals.
Flags and bricks may be purchased at www.ssirotary.org, or at the table set up in Neptune Park immediately before and after Taps at Twilight.