By MARY STARR
One of the area’s most beloved traditions — Taps at Twilight — is right around the corner.
Established by the Rotary Club of St. Simons Island 28 years ago, the Memorial Day observance, held in Neptune Park in the St. Simons Pier Village, is billed as “a meaningful way for the Golden Isles to gather together 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.”
The St. Simons Island Rotary Club will present the Taps at Twilight Memorial Day Concert and Tribute beginning at 6:45 p.m. May 27.
The program for the event includes music by the approximately 40-piece Golden Isles Community Concert Band, now directed by Noah Madison, and Terry Clayton singing the “The National Anthem.” Following the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the colors will be posted, and there will be a wreath presentation and invocation.
The keynote speaker is Lt. Col. Kenneth M. Dwyer, Commander, U.S. Garrison Hunter Army Airfield. Dwyer has served in a variety of command and staff positions throughout his career. His operational deployments include four tours to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He has earned a bachelor’s degree in health and exercise science, and a master’s degree in defense analysis from the Naval Post Graduate School. He has earned the Expert Infantryman Badge, Combat Infantry Badge, the Air Assault Badge, Ranger Tab and Special Forces Tabs.
Dwyer and his wife Jennie have been married 18 years. They have two children, Timothy, 14, and Julia, 11.
Following Dwyer’s address, Terry Clayton will lead the audience in a sing-along of “I’m Proud to be an American,” also known as “God Bless the U.S.A.,” originally recorded by Lee Greenwood.
People are welcome to bring chairs, blankets and picnic baskets.
Susan Imhoff is this year’s chair, and while she didn’t serve in the military, her son is a member of the North Carolina National Guard and works with the adjutant general there. Members of the committee include Clyde Taylor, who served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1959-1969, and comes from a long line of military veterans.
“There are four generations represented in the bricks, going back to the Spanish-American War,” said Taylor, referencing the memorial bricks the St. Simons Rotary Club sells for $75 each, which are placed around the flagpole and along a walkway in Neptune Park. My grandfather was the commanding officer of the Brunswick Riflemen, and my son is a retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col., who is now a lawyer in Chicago.”
Millard Allen, a retired U.S. Navy Commander, also serves on the Taps at Twilight committee. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1952-1976, including reserve duty, and spent his active duty primarily as a submariner. Despite being active military during both the Korean and Vietnam wars, Allen was only deployed twice — once to the Middle East in 1959 and 1960, and later to the Faroe Islands, a part of Iceland.
“They sent me to Iceland in March,” Allen chuckled.
Charles Lewis, a former Army sergeant who served with the U.S. Army 1952-1954, was a young man from south Alabama when he enlisted.
“The Army gave me my first train, plane and boat ride,” he laughed. He’s been serving in the Taps at Twilight committee for at least 10 years.
Imhoff said the event is paid for through the club’s flag and brick sales.
“It’s free to the public,” she said, adding that the Rotary membership is made up largely of veterans, or people who have, or have had, military members in their own families, so it’s something the club feels is very important.
The event has grown over the years, and now draws crowds in the thousands of people.
“It’s a lot more publicized,” said Allen. “More people know about it.”