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Today’s featured Oregon women veterans include “living legend” Mildred LaViolette Harrison, part of the first class of WAVES during the Second World War, and Lt. Col. Linda Campbell, the first to secure burial rights for her same-sex spouse in a national military cemetery.
Mildred LaViolette Harrison, Naval Reserve, WWII
Mildred LaViolette Harrison was one of the first group of 600 Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services, who freed up men to fight overseas during World War II.
She learned about the WAVES in the newspaper while living outside New York City, where she worked in office jobs. She took the first train to Stillwater, Oklahoma, where basic training for WWII support troops was being staged.
“The war had started, and we just wanted to do our part,” Harrison later recalled. “I was very interested.”
“We just wanted to do our part.”Mildred LaViolette Harrison, Naval Reserve, WWII
She eventually made first class petty officer, where she earned $100 a month keeping track of Navy flight logs at Anacostia Naval Air Station in Washington, D.C.
Harrison went on to become a charter member of the Women’s Military Memorial in Washington, DC, which seeks to honor women’s contributions to the armed forces. Eventually, she settled in southern Oregon to be closer to family.
Now a resident of Grants Pass, Harrison received a community “Living Legend” in January to recognize her service. She will turn 101 in May.
Lt. Col. Linda Campbell, U.S. Air Force, Cold War/Peacetime
Ret. Lt. Col. Linda Campbell served a full career in the United States Air Force — but her greatest fight came after she left the service.
That was when she petitioned — successfully — in 2013 to become the first veteran in the nation’s history to secure burial rights for her same-sex spouse in a national military cemetery.
Campbell’s fight to be laid to secure military burial rights for her partner of 22 years, Nancy Lynchild, reached the highest levels of government — including the desk of then-President Barack Obama.
Two years later, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs began recognizing burial rights for all same-sex couples who meet the qualifications of eligible military service.
Campbell had spent more than 25 years in the Air Force and served as military advisor to Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh. Later in life, she became an advocate for affordable housing and served as director of the Housing and Urban Development Department in Portland.
Campbell followed her wife in death in March 2018. She was buried alongside Nancy Lynchild in the Willamette National Cemetery in southeast Portland.
Former Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, a friend of Campbell’s who had worked alongside her to help ensure Lynchild’s ashes would be buried in the Campbell family plot, later remembered her this way:
“She was a diamond.”Brad Avakian, former Oregon Labor Commissioner
“Linda was a subtle yet giant force that moved our world forward. But more, I have never known a person with greater capacity to love others, and be loved in return. Among all the gems we collect in life, our friends and experience, she was a diamond.”