Lainey Crown

Branch: National Guard

Duty Station: Maryland

Number of Deployments: 7

Number of PCS's: 0

Share your military spouse story:
My story started when my cousin, Brown, stood next to Crown at morning formation. I then met my cousin's Army friend at his wedding and the rest is history. My military spouse story is unique in that my husband served Active Duty and when he transitioned to the Guard, he went to a unit states away due to his MOS- which is not uncommon for this specialized series. His unit is in Maryland while we live in Kentucky. During a deployment, the isolation from the unit led me to become involved in the military nonprofit space and it is in those roles I found my calling. While serving on the Special Forces Shield Maidens leadership team, I saw the gap in access to culturally competent mental health counseling. Seeing spouses post over and over desperate to find a counselor who understood them drove me to a major career shift. At the time, I had owned a mobile boutique for 5 years but felt led to close shop and pursue this new path to support service members and their families. I am now a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate working full time at a local community mental health center; a mom of 3 very active kids; and a dedicated advocate for those who work in high trauma exposure environments and their families to have access to high quality mental health care.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I believe leadership is not just a title, it's an action that unites and moves the ball forward. On top of the duties of my full time job, I serve in a variety of leadership roles in the nonprofit sector. I am the Chair of the Suicide Prevention Task Force at Military Special Operations Family Collaborative (MSOFC) where I have worked with a variety of stakeholders and developed training for suicide prevention. As an Educational Catalyst for MSOFC, I have helped implement curriculum on healthy checkpoints to support service members and their families thrive in Special Operations as well. For the last 4 years, I have served on Special Forces Shield Maidens' leadership team where I have developed programs to meet spouses needs; routinely work to connect spouses to resources; and assist spouses build their community. Finally, I founded Project Reforged to support those working in high trauma exposure environments and their families meet their mental health needs on their terms.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
As a National Guard spouse, states away from my husband's unit, I have had to be very intentional in order to show up for other spouses. It has been my goal and honor to create the active duty team culture as best we can with spouses spread across 5 states. Whether spouses are facing a big life event, a trip with limited communication or just questions about navigating Tricare, it has been a joy to connect with spouses and support them. Further, due to my schooling and expertise in mental health, I have become a go-to resource for many spouses. It is an honor to continually have service members and spouses reach out and be able to connect them to the resources they need, whether that is formally through my roles in the nonprofit sector or informally when a spouse hears about me through the grapevine.

Describe how you support your community:
I not only have been able to show up for my community personally but professionally as well. As a mental health clinician, I have had the amazing opportunity to pair my expertise and experience as a military spouse to equip fellow clinicians to show up in a culturally competent way to best support their military clients. I have worked to build clinician support for the military community through providing training at the university and state level. I founded Project Reforged to empower those working in high trauma exposure environments and their families address their mental health needs on their terms. I address hard truths that spouses face so that spouses feel validated in challenges they're facing and provide psychoeducation to navigate those challenges.

What do you advocate for? Why?
Since closing my store and pursuing my master's degree in counseling, I have realized access is not the only barrier to mental health care. I advocate for equipping service members and their families with quality educational tools and resources to help understand how the brain works so they can make informed decisions regarding their care. While access to mental healthcare has exploded in the last several years, unfortunately, cultural competency when working with military members and their families has not. The preparedness of clinicians to understand the military community's unique strengths and challenges is crucial to receiving the best care. That is why I advocate for teaching both sides, clinicians as well as the military community, so that everyone involved can support the needs of our community.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
I routinely engage in informal as well as formal discussions on what quality, culturally competent mental healthcare is for the military community. In 2023, I spoke at the Kentucky Counseling Association's annual conference on cultural considerations when working with the military community. I have also given talks on building cultural competency for occupational therapists for the last few years at a local university. Cultural competency is understanding the unique community and their needs. Through providing training to other clinicians, I have been able to instill the importance of cultural competency in the military community as a crucial component of high quality care.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
I am honored to be nominated for this award and have the potential gain have a megaphone in order to reach more people. I hope to partner with other leaders in order to reach more service members and their families and empower them to make changes they need to support their mental health. I would also hope to have the opportunity to reach more clinicians, to provide insight and further training opportunities so they can better serve our military members and their families. I cannot accomplish this alone, so if the AFI MSOY program allows me empower others to better meet the mental health needs of the military community, I consider that a success.


Lainey lives to help other service members, veterans, LEOs and their families succeed and live full and happy lives. She has spent years supporting countless efforts to help the military community, all while balancing mom life, deployments, and all things military life. Lainey returned to school to learn how to help military families even more through counseling. She is one of the most caring and passionate people I know. I am thankful to know her and call her a friend and fellow milspouse.
- by KaLea Lehman

Lainey Crown is the kind of woman you’d want on your team. She is dedicated and compassionate. Lainey is a devoted mother, military and LEO spouse, therapist, and non-profit team member. She sees where help is needed and creates solutions. Lainey serves on the family advisory board for the Military Special Operations Family Collaborative and is deeply involved in their education pillar. She is also on the strategic leadership team for the Special Forces Shield Maidens. As her friends are lucky enough to know, Lainey is always ready to listen, guide, or simply give a hug. Lainey also created Project Reforged, an organization which uses evidence based practices to teach high performance mental health strategies to those who work in an environment with high trauma exposures. Lainey gracefully and gratefully accepts life’s challenges, and she is a role model not only to her littles, but to the rest of us who would do well to model her drive, empathy, and genuine kindness.
- by Alexis Moore

I hereby nominate Ms. Lainey Crown for the title of Military Spouse of the Year. She has demonstrated exceptional leadership within the counseling field. This is evident through diligent research in her areas of expertise, leading to invitations to share her knowledge at state conferences. Ms. Crown goes above and beyond by actively contributing to the professional growth of fellow therapists by imparting valuable insights on specialized topics related to supporting military service members and their families. Furthermore, she has played an integral role serving in nonprofit organizations dedicated to the well-being of military spouses. Ms. Crown is known for her impeccable ethical standards. Her commitment extends beyond her immediate surroundings, as she remains dedicated to supporting both her local and broader military community. I wholeheartedly endorse Ms. Lainey Crown, recognizing her as a true leader, advocate, and compassionate professional within the military support network.
- by Holly J. Mattingly