Veteran Rob Smith believes coming out gay to a few friends in the U.S. Army kept him safe in Iraq.

Smith appeared on HuffPost Live to discuss his book Closets, Combat and Coming Out: Coming of Age As A Gay Man In The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Army.

Smith explained that he faced gay slurs as a 17-year-old recruit.

“The book starts with that very first day of basic training,” Smith said. “You know, I'm basically fresh off the bus. I am different in so many ways in that place and time. I'm the only black soldier, you know, I may be a little gay, whatever, but I'm having this barked in my face, and I get that in my face, like, immediately from the drill sergeant.”

Smith added that he came out to his best friend Howard – not his real name – the night before they shipped off to Iraq.

“And so we just talked that whole night about being gay, about being afraid to go to Iraq, about this guy that just broke my heart and all this other stuff,” he said. “And what I found [was] that through coming out to him we were able to have a stronger bond and that bond was something that I think kept me safe and kept me alive when I actually did deploy.” (The video is embedded on this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)