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For a gay couple wanting a military burial, the battle for love doesn't end with death

By AJ Willingham, CNN

Marble rows at Willamette National Cemetery in Oregon In the row above the bright green acres lined up. Retired Air Force commander Linda Campbell was familiar with the view. She chose a waterfront apartmentnear herand was able to see from a distance where her wife was quietly waiting for her.

Nancy Linchild died of cancer in 2012. She was too early. It's too early for Campbell, who lived for another six years without the love of her life. Too early for a country where the federal government has not yet legalized same-sex marriage, the Department of Veterans Affairs refuses to request the burial of Linchild in the same sacred place where other military spouses were entitled. At that time, Campbell was almost unreliable.

Still, Campbell fought. Oregon leaders helped her persuade theDepartment of Veterans Affairsto allow Linchild's body to be buried in Willamette.When Campbell died in 2018, her ashes were buried with her wife and behind a stone carved inSandhill Crane. It was sealed.
Campbell was the first gay veteran to secure his spouse's burial rights, and the pair was the firstsame-sex military couple buried together in the US National Cemetery {28. } was.
Campbellput their heritage into words in 2013: "Our country knows, and everyone passing here we love Proudly and legally married, and the right of us to be here in this sacred space. "
In 2015legalization of same-sex marriageGuarantees the right to military burial of gay spouses nationwide, but only a handful of known same-sex military couples. He was buried in 172 National Cemeteries in the United States. The site was reserved primarily for military personnel and selected families.

In most cases, honor has been won with courage and unwavering love.

Brad Avacian was one of the leaders at Oregon State University who helped Linchild secure a place for his wife in Willamette. In the process, he came to know a couple that he described as "notable."

"The word'battle'is so often used in politics that it loses its meaning," he told CNN. "But this was a battle."

Avakian is now a professor at Willamette Universityand vice president ofClark Collegein Vancouver, Washington. When he first met Campbell and Linchild in 2012, he was an Oregon State Labor Commissioner. For Campbell, he said her military service and marriage were two of the most important things in her life. She wanted to be buried in Willamet, where her veteran father was buried. But she also wanted to be with the woman she loved.

"Linda expresses her disappointment that she and her father have devoted her entire career to this country for so long that this country will not recognize her as her human being. I was doing it, "said Abakian.

Don't say "She doesn't ask".". She has experienced everything a woman thinks she must experience in the army. And this Final Fight felt like the whole era.

Abakian said his repeated appeals to then-President Barack Obama were ignored. It was former US Secretary of Veterans Eric Shinseki who proceeded with Campbell's proceedings and ultimately gave her the necessary exemptions for Linchild's burial.

After that, Abakian and his wife maintained an intimate relationship with Campbell. She showed them the apartment she bought across the river. When she died, Abakian spoke at her funeral. There was no glitz, he said. Just warmth, a feeling of congratulations. Together again together.

"They were two of the most loving and compassionate people you would like to meet," he said. "Linda had a disciplined and driven military side, in a beautiful combination with a loving and compassionate worldview, which manifested itself in everything she did and in her relationship."

At the same time Campbell was fighting for his wife's memory in Oregon, Madeline Taylor was fighting a similar fight in Idaho. A longtime LGBTQ activist and veteran of the Navy, she met her wife Jeanne Mixner in 1995. It was love at first sight. Together, they attended the church andmade their name in the community of the Boise regionuntil the death of Mixer in 2012.
Taylor was a military facility where she wanted her body to rest someday, but the amount of influence and anger wasIdaho Department of Veterans Affairs {71. I couldn't convince} to allow it. At that time, the Defense of Marriage Act meant that same-sex spouses could only be buried together in such a place if they lived in a state where marriage was considered legal. Idaho was not in such a state, and Taylor's proceedings filed against the state's VA were dismissed.
Mixers were secured in Idaho's Veterans' Cemetery untilthe Idaho ban on same-sex marriage was overturned in 2014.

Taylor's legitimate rebellion was a hallmark of her activity, said her sister Karen Hicks.

"She has always been a problem solver," Hicks toldIdaho State Assembly member. "With her will, she has a way."

When Taylor filed a proceeding, Hicks asked her sister if she thought she was undertaking too much. Said asked.

"She said," No, if you feel strong enough about something, you'll do it. "

Taylor at a pride event or other rally in her area. It was equipment. When she died in 2021, she was mourned as the mother of the movement, a wife whose dedication is enshrined in history and stone.

The National Cemetery Rest Area is a great honor for veterans who had been denied many same-sex couples until 2015. However, gay veterans have always fought for the right to be included and celebrated in such places. space.

Since 1980,LGBTQ activists have participated in a memorial ceremonyat Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia's largest and most famous national cemetery. Still, among the 400,000 tombs there, the same-sex military couple markedis unknown
not far from Arlington,Washington DC's Parliamentary Cemeteryis the site of a unique LGBTQ section that honors military members and national leaders who fought for equality and dignity. Their tombstones shout in silence. "Gay is good," reads the plaque under the tomb of iconic activist, civil servant, and World War II veteran Frank Kameny. The shiny, unnamed marble tombstone shows the tomb of Leonardo Matrovich, one of the first LGBTQ veterans to protest the military's ban on homosexuality, as belonging to the "Gay Vietnam Veterans."
"When I was in the army, they gave me a medal for killing two men.

Not only their service in death, but also What was recognized for their true self was a legitimate struggle for these veterans who served their country despite the criminalization and oppression of their identities.

Today, in a slightly brighter future, the torch is kept high by couples like Cambell and Linchild, Taylor and Mixner,Rev. Lowelland his husband Kensims.
Army veterans who served in the Korean War, Warsington, died in 2017 and were buried in the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery. When their husband Kensims died in 2021, theyBecame the first same-sex couple buried on the site
Presided over the burial of Rev. Erin WaimaSims in the Cathedral of Hope. She has been a church since the 1990s. She remembers the couple who attended as a strong and admired fixture in the congregation. They loved people and hosted parties at their homes for years.

When Warsington died, the community gathered to support Sims in his sorrow. After all, they were a family.

Wyma brought Sims with her husband. The day I helped to rest was very hot. The family-chosen, otherwise-had a lot of attendees. The staff at the Dallas Force Worth Cemetery was just nice, she said. In fact, it wasn't until the end of the worship that the true meaning of this event emerged to her.

At that moment, under the scorching Dallas sun, she did. As I remembered them and thanked them for naming the love they chose for each other.

"We were in the army's place. A guard in uniform nearby. There were members, and I was free to talk about their time, "she said. "It was an honor to be able to speak openly about how much they love each other."

Over time, more and more such couples will have similar peace together. Destined to find. When they rest, the tireless battle of their ancestors will ensure that they are fully honored-as veterans and as a family.