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'Spouse' A Small But Important Word On A Veteran's Headstone

OPB | March 19, 2013 4:48 p.m. | Updated: March 21, 2013 9:16 a.m. | Portland

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An Oregon veteran says she received permission Tuesday to use the word “spouse” on her lesbian partner’s headstone at Willamette National Cemetery. 

Nancy Lynchild

Nancy Lynchild

Linda Campbell

Linda Campbell spent 25 years in the Air Force. She and Nancy Lynchild registered as domestic partners in Eugene and married in Vancouver B.C. in 2010.

Lynchild died of cancer in late December. Campbell successfully petitioned to have  Lynchild buried at Willamette National Cemetery. 

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs could not get back to OPB in time for our radio report Tuesday afternoon to confirm that the word, “spouse” has been approved. 

OPB’s April Baer spoke to Campbell about what the recognition would mean.


Linda Campbell just moved into a condo in southwest Portland. That’s where we spoke about her partner’s long and difficult final illness.

Linda Campbell just learned that this language, referring to Nancy Lynchild as her spouse, has been approved for Lynchild's headstone.

Linda Campbell just learned that this language, referring to Nancy Lynchild as her spouse, has been approved for Lynchild's headstone.

April Baer / Oregon Public Broadcasting

Linda Campbell “Nancy first had breast cancer in 1994 and that’s what makes it important — honoring not only my service but us as a couple.

Campbell says it never occurred to her to ask for a place for Nancy at Willamette National Cemetery. But a chance conversation with the state Labor Commissioner led to several officials taking up her cause.

In a written statement, the Department said, “VA is committed to taking care of Veterans and their families, and recognizes the desire of Veterans to have the opportunity to be buried with a loved one.” 

The statement further notes the Secretary for Veterans’ Affairs has previously used discretionary authority to designate others, such as a siblings, children or a parent as eligible for burial in a National Cemetery.

Campbell says she plans to travel to Washington D.C., and hopes to be in attendance as the Supreme Court hears arguments in United States v. Windsor, a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

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