Afghanistan War veteran and Maryland resident works to help fellow Black veterans

As America’s war in Afghanistan draws to a close, one Maryland veteran has made it his mission to give back to fellow Black service members.

Xavier Bruce helps Black veterans make the transition from military to civilian life through his organization, Uplift In-Powerment, Inc., and through the Western Maryland chapter of the National Association for Black Veterans.

The Arkansas native who now resides in Columbia, Maryland, spent 24 years in the military.

He spent most of his deployments in Afghanistan at Bagram Air Base in 2009, then Kandahar in 2011, making him one of the 800,000 armed forces members to serve in the conflict.

Xavier Bruce, the founder of Uplift In-Provement, Inc. (Courtesy Xavier Bruce)

He said one of the goals of his nonprofit is to create a safe space for Black veterans where, “they can rebuild that camaraderie that we miss out on once we get out.”

Bruce also started the Western Maryland chapter of the National Association for Black Veterans and is working on starting another in Columbia. He said one common problems he’s seeing among Black veterans, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, is how they are compensated.

He said there are disparities in what Black veterans are paid opposed to their white counterparts, and are either unemployed or underemployed.

Bruce also said their levels of stress are higher than the average civilian. He finds himself trying to convince them that “it’s ok to ask for the benefits that you are entitled to.”

A typical refrain Bruce hears from veterans is that “I don’t want to take money from the government or take money away from someone who’s worse off than I am.”

He advises them to take the money that they deserve — that they’ve earned to create generational wealth for their families. Bruce’s group provides coaching, leadership training and socially distanced workshops to help veterans create a better future for themselves.

Bruce is a 2000 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy with a degree in biology.

He also has as Master of Business Administration in Information Systems Management from Wayland Baptist University and received his Doctorate of Business Administration in Global Supply Chain Management from Walden University.

Bruce is married with four children.

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