North Carolina National Guardsman Tracy Johnson (left) is an Iraq war veteran and an Army widow. She is also believed to be the first gay spouse to lose her partner at war since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Donna Johnson was killed on Oct. 1, 2012, while on patrol in Khost, Afghanistan. She was 29.Tracy married her long-time partner, Staff Sergeant Donna Johnson, on Valentine’s Day in 2012. Later that year, Donna was killed by a suicide bomber while serving in Khost, Afghanistan. She was 29 years old.

The Army did not consider Tracy to be Donna’s next of kin, but when Army representatives arrived to inform Donna’s family of her death, Tracy presented their marriage certificate and asked to be part of the military escort that would welcome her wife back to U.S. soil. This request was ultimately granted at the insistence of her mother-in-law, Sandra Johnson (right).

At StoryCorps, Tracy and Sandra talk about finding out that their wife and daughter wasn’t coming home.

Originally aired February 16, 2013, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

Above: Staff Sergeant Donna Johnson. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Public Affairs Office.