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Gay Soldier Finally Speaks Out

By on May 31, 2014

Now that the U.S. military and the nation has turned the page on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” it seems hard to imagine the thousands who served under the policy. Rob Smith was a closeted gay male, living under that policy and he’s documented his experience in a powerful memoir Closets, Combat, And Coming Out.

Now in his 30’s, Smith chronicles his life before, during and after the military starting with his entry at age seventeen. Like millions before him, Smith used the military as a bridge to a better future. Unlike most memoirs of Black gay men, the candid details of a crush on his military recruiter, being rejected by his mother, and even thoughts of suicide are all understandable and well told.

“I grew up poor and black in Ohio, not lots of options. No one in my family went to college and the military was a means of getting ahead.”

Before enlisting in the military, Smith thought he was “different” which he would later connect to his sexual orientation, being gay.

“It was very isolating being gay in the military, it puts you on the defense and creates a barrier. You had to walk a tight rope or get kicked out.”


Smith served five years in the U.S. Army as an infantryman, earning the Army Commendation Medal and Combat Infantry Badge.

Post military life, Smith graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Communication and dove head first into activism. Determined to create a better experience for those military personnel sanctioned under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Smith was arrest at White House gates with other LGBT activist, protesting.

In 2010 he was arrested at the White House with 12 other LGBT activists in protest of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law which barred lesbian, gay, and bisexual soldiers from serving openly, and he was later a guest of President Barack Obama at the ceremony that repealed the law.

Fast forward to today and Rob Smith is an Iraq war veteran, author, public speaker, LGBT activist, and self-proclaimed loudmouth living in New York City. He also a YouTube video pundit on many topics and current events. 



CJ Denegal is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Atlanta, Georgia. CJ Holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Ashford University.