Bob Campbell carries his sister Linda's remains and portrait on his way to her gravesite.

Bob Campbell carries his sister Linda’s remains and portrait on his way to her gravesite.

Abbie Winn/OPB/OPB

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Linda Campbell, the Oregon veteran who fought for and became the first to secure the right to be buried next to her same-sex spouse was laid to rest Monday at Willamette National Cemetery.

Along a grassy slope, with Mount Hood on the horizon, friends and family buried Campbell next her spouse, Nancy Lynchild, who died of cancer six years ago.

“It meant so much to Linda to have her marriage recognized and memorialized in stone in the hallowed ground here of Willamette National Cemetery,” said Holly Pruett, who led the service. 

The path leading to Campbell’s interment began in April 2012, when Lynchild was dying.

Campbell was weighing a difficult choice — be buried next to the love of her life or honor her military career and be buried at the national cemetery with her parents.

Attendees share a moment of laughter at Campbell's service, remembering her love for women's basketball.

Attendees share a moment of laughter at Campbell’s service, remembering her love for women’s basketball.

Abbie Winn/OPB/OPB

At the time, no gay veteran had ever been granted a waiver for their spouse to be buried with them at a national cemetery. The year before, the Obama administration had just repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the military policy that prevented LGBTQ members from serving opening. But the U.S. Supreme Court hadn’t struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, the law that prevented same-sex marriages in America.

Oregon Bureau of Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian was running for re-election at the time and happened to call Campbell. After hearing her story, Avakian wanted to get involved. His staff began exploring legal options, had conversations with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and reached out to Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office.

Merkley personally reached out to then VA Secretary Eric Shinseki several times about Campbell’s case.

A bagpiper plays on a grassy slope at Campbell's service. With Mount Hood on the horizon, friends and family buried Campbell next her spouse, Nancy Lynchild, who died of cancer six years ago.

A bagpiper plays on a grassy slope at Campbell’s service. With Mount Hood on the horizon, friends and family buried Campbell next her spouse, Nancy Lynchild, who died of cancer six years ago.

Abbie Winn/OPB/OPB

Lynchild died in December 2012. And on Jan. 29, 2013, the VA granted Campbell a waiver, making the couple the first in the country to be granted the right to be buried next to their same-sex spouse.

The significance of Campbell’s achievement wasn’t lost on those at Monday’s interment.

“After a quarter century of dedicated service to her country, lived largely in fear that her status as a gay woman would be discovered and bring disgrace, Linda could not be prouder to end her days here receiving military honors before being interred with her beloved Nancy,” Pruett said.

With that, two committal guards folded the American flag. One set it gently next to Campbell’s urn and saluted.

The sound of Taps played by a single horn filled the air.