A view of the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery.

For gay couples hoping for a military burial, the fight for love doesn't end with death

Updated 3:00 AM ET, Sun July 3, 2022

In Willamette National Cemetery in Oregon, lines of marble rise row on row above acres of vivid green. Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Linda Campbell knew the view well. She had chosen her nearby waterfront apartment so that she could see, from a distance, the place where her wife silently waited for her.

Nancy Lynchild died of cancer in 2012. It was too soon. Too soon for Campbell, who lived another six years without the love of her life. Too soon for a nation that had not yet federally legalized same-sex marriage, leaving Campbell with little recourse when Veterans Affairs denied her request for Lynchild's burial on the same hallowed ground to which other military spouses were entitled.
Still, Campbell fought. Oregon state leaders helped her convince Veterans Affairs to allow Lynchild's remains to be interred at Willamette. When Campbell died in 2018, her ashes were buried with her wife's and sealed behind a stone carved with a sandhill crane, a symbol for their undying love.
Campbell was the first gay veteran to secure burial rights for her spouse, and the pair were the first same-sex military couple to be buried together at a US national cemetery.
Campbell put their legacy into words in 2013: "Our nation will know and everyone who passes by here will know that we lovingly, proudly and legally were wed, and that we have earned the right to be here in this hallowed space."
The right to a military burial for gay spouses was guaranteed nationwide with the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, but only a handful of known same-sex military couples are buried across the 172 national cemeteries in the US -- grounds reserved chiefly for military members and selected family.
For most, the honor has been hard won with bravery and unerring love.
Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.