Linda Campbell, left, and her wife Nancy Lynchild.

Linda Campbell, left, and her wife Nancy Lynchild.

Courtesy of the family

An Oregon woman, whose wish to be buried with her wife in Willamette National Cemetery brought change to the highest levels of government, has died. 

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Linda Campbell died of cancer Friday morning at her residence in Portland’s South Waterfront neighborhood. She was 71.

In 2013, Campbell was the first veteran in the nation to secure burial rights for her same-sex spouse in a national military cemetery.

Her wife Nancy Lynchild had died after a long struggle with cancer.

At a 2013 rally for same-sex marriage, Campbell described how she and Lynchild had planned to grow old together. She said marriage brought her wife comfort in her final months, when Lynchild was on oxygen and growing weaker.

“She said my quality of life is looking at you. My quality of life is sharing our memories together. It’s living in the home that we created together. That’s my quality of life, and that’s worth fighting for,” Campbell recalled.  

“That’s the kind of love that Nancy and I shared,” she said. “We had the kind of marriage that most people dream of. Young people, old people, gay people, straight people.”

Campbell spent 25 years in the military and served as military advisor to Oregon Gov. Vic Atiyeh. Later in her life, she became an advocate for affordable housing and served as director of the Housing and Urban Development Department in Portland.

Campbell will be buried alongside Nancy Lynchild in the Willamette National Cemetery in southeast Portland.

“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,” she said.

A U.S. Marine Corps. flag flies over the grave of a fallen Marine at the Willamette National Cemetery in 2016.

A U.S. Marine Corps. flag flies over the grave of a fallen Marine at the Willamette National Cemetery in 2016.

Bryan M. Vance/OPB

The fight to secure military burial rights for Lynchild, a journeyman electrician and director of housing programs for the Lane County Housing Authority, reached the highest levels of government.

Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley lobbied then-Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to allow the burial. He granted a burial waiver for Lynchild on Jan. 29, 2013.

In her South Waterfront apartment, Campbell hung a personal note from President Obama thanking Campbell for her service and expressing his support for the recognition of her bond with Lynchild.

The Veteran’s Administration now gives burial rights to all same-sex couples, following the 2015 Supreme Court decision recognizing the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry.