A native Washingtonian, Officer Dwann Thornton started working for the Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH) in March of 2003. Officer Dee Dee, as she’s fondly referred to by staff, is the first face you see when entering the campus, as she starts her shift bright and early at 7 am. You can find her — most likely smiling — at the security guardhouse near the Eagle Gate, Monday through Friday until 3 pm.
Why do President Lincoln’s Cottage’s visitors have to pass through a security gate? The answer has to do with whom we share the grounds.
President Lincoln’s Cottage shares the campus with AFRH, who has a security gate as one of the several basic measures that help ensure the safety and security of all residents and employees. When President Lincoln’s Cottage opened in 2008, it signaled a major shift in who was visiting the campus. It wasn’t just residents and their guests anymore. Visitors from around the world started coming to learn more about Lincoln’s ideas, his life, and what he accomplished while living here. As a nonprofit that operates on the campus, we work closely with our partners at AFRH, including members of the security team, like Officer Thornton, to ensure the safety of all visitors. The AFRH Security staff are the first people our visitors meet when they arrive.
It’s safe to say Officer Thornton might be the eyes and ears of the campus. With AFRH (500-plus residents), President Lincoln’s Cottage visitors, staff, volunteers, and various guests, plus the Creative Minds charter school’s students, teachers, and parents, there’s a good amount of coming and going, all funneled under Officer Thornton’s watchful eye.
With fourteen years under her belt, she’s seen countless visitors, residents, and staff, and she’s happy to see an increasing amount of school groups with young students coming to the campus, she explained. She also remarked that she’s noticed the ever-changing neighborhood surrounding the campus. She noted that there’s been a lot more “diversity throughout the community” during her tenure.
Programs Coordinator at President Lincoln’s Cottage, Michelle Martz explains, “Officer Thornton is not only a friendly face every morning when I come into work, but she provides welcoming information to our visitors; she also never misses a Family Day! She brings her daughter every year to ride the ponies.”
“She is a calm and reassuring presence of security and friendliness,” Museum Store Associate Manager Jamie Cooper said.
Museum Program Associate Curtis Harris adds, “Almost every morning I walk onto the Soldiers’ Home campus for work at the Cottage, Officer Thornton is there to greet me with a ‘g’morning’ in her crisp security uniform on sunny days. Even on rainy or otherwise bad weather days where our voices may not travel far, she shoots a smile and hand wave in my direction.”
Echoing Michelle’s sentiments, he continues, “During one of our Family Days, two or three years ago, I was dumbstruck when I saw Officer Thornton in ‘civilian clothing’ with her daughter enjoying the petting zoo. As an adult, I knew it was reasonable for her to be having fun off-duty like anyone else. However, I was still shook. ‘This is Officer Thornton,’ I mused. ‘Keeper of order at the Soldiers’ Home. And here she is waiting in line for the ponies!’ Looking back on it, I liken my reaction to that of a young child who sees their classroom teacher in a t-shirt and jeans at the grocery store on a Saturday. But of course, on-duty or off-duty, Officer Thornton was still in her normal affable behavior.”
Senior Preservationist Jeff Larry laughed recalling, “Just this past week I was doing preservation work on one of the windows in the Cottage. Officer Thornton called Callie and asked, ‘Why’s there a kid hanging out of the window?’ To be fair, I was wearing a backwards hat,” he explained. “Nothing gets past her.”
When asked if she had any funny stories to tell, she coyly explained, “well the residents (of AFRH) certainly keep me entertained.”
If you’re passing by the grounds Monday through Friday during the day, be sure to give Officer Thornton a wave and “thank you” for everything she and the AFRH security team do to ensure operations run smoothly and safely.