The Department of Veterans Affairs has recently approved what is believed to be the nation's first same-sex spouse burial at a national cemetery.
Nancy Lynchild, the same-sex partner of retired Lt. Col. Linda Campbell, will be buried at Willamette National Cemetery near Portland, Ore., CNN reports.
"I am deeply grateful to my country for honoring and respecting my years of service and my relationship with Nancy, the love of my life," Campbell, an Air Force veteran, said of her partner who died from cancer in December. "Willamette National Cemetery is a beautiful, peaceful place. Knowing that Nancy and I can join my parents on that hallowed ground is a source of great comfort and healing."
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki approved the burial. A statement released to CNN revealed that Shinseki "did not base his decision on the individual's marital status or state recognized relationship status, but rather based it, in part, on evidence of a committed relationship between the individual and the Veteran."
According to KPTV, Oregon's Sen. Jeff Merkley also supported the couple's request to be buried together, saying "Our veterans have stood up for us and we must stand up for them when they need it most."
The approval was a long time coming.
Campbell has been campaigning for her partner's burial for months, with the support of Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian and Merkley, according to The Oregonian. After Lynchild died in December, Campbell renewed her request and was eventually granted approval.
"I felt guilty to some degree when I applied for the waiver for Nancy and me because it felt selfish, in a way," Campbell said, according to the Associated Press. "I knew there were many others who longed for this opportunity, and I felt like we should be asking for all of us. But I knew that the Defense of Marriage Act was bigger than I was, and it wouldn't do any of us any good."
Campbell, who joined the Air Force in 1968, will someday be buried with Lynchild's ashes at the cemetery, The Oregonian reports. If the request had not been granted, Campbell would've waived her burial rights and had her and Lynchild's ashes eventually scattered together, according to AP.
The decision comes soon after outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta offered expanded benefits to same-sex military couples, an extension that still does not include burial rights. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) continues to block gay military families from nearly 100 benefits provided to heterosexual couples, including healthcare and housing.
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