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Coming Out and Fighting for LGBT Rights as a Gay Iraq War Veteran (VIDEO)

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I'm a decorated Iraq War veteran and LGBT activist, and this past Spirit Day I had the opportunity to speak about my experiences to college students attending a conference in upstate Pennsylvania.

I'm choosing to share this small portion of my talk in the days before Veterans Day because as we celebrate this national holiday, it's important that we don't forget the contributions of LGBT people who have served our country throughout history and have been invisible -- until now. With the historic repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) now firmly etched in the history books, we opened the door to a generation of service members who will no longer have to hide their sexual orientation.

However, they still face roadblocks to full equality both in the U.S. Armed Forces and elsewhere. Gay and lesbian soldiers are still fighting for equal partner benefits, the addition of sexual orientation to the military's nondiscrimination policy, and open service for their transgender brothers and sisters.

As we celebrate this Veterans Day and our historic wins for equality all around, it's important for us to use our voices and speak out in the name of full equality for the LGBT community.

The military builds leaders and commands respect, and it is my hope that the many military men and women who were involved in the hard-won fight to repeal DADT will use those skills to help the LGBT community in all future fights for our civil rights.

We will never be silenced again, we will never be invisible again, and my voice is just one of many that will bring full LGBT equality to this great nation I once wore a uniform to protect.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-866-488-7386 for the Trevor Lifeline, or call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Rob Smith is a U.S. Army veteran, LGBT activist and author of the forthcoming memoir Closets, Combat and Coming Out. He can be reached online at robsmithonline.com.