Leslie Jones

Branch: National Guard

Duty Station: Louisiana

Number of Deployments: 1

Number of PCS's: 1

Share your military spouse story:
In January 2012, my journey as a military spouse began as my husband enlisted in the US Army. Fort Riley, Kansas, became our inaugural and sole duty station. As my husband navigated the demands of military life, I discovered my own sense of purpose. Serving as a program specialist at the Fort Riley Youth Center, I simultaneously pursued a degree at Kansas State University. During my time at KSU, I raised our young son, welcomed the birth of our second son, and weathered the isolation of our initial deployment. In May 2015, I graduated with honors, earning my bachelor's degree in social work. Post-graduation, my focus shifted towards addressing the distinctive needs of military families. My career unfolded within the nonprofit sector, where I spearheaded programs dedicated to serving veterans, service members, and their families through the American Red Cross, Service to the Armed Forces, spanning the states of Kansas, Nebraska, and Louisiana. Empowerment became my guiding principle, influencing my interactions with fellow military spouses. Through volunteer initiatives, I endeavored to cultivate a sense of community—a support system that transcended the challenges inherent in military life. The years at Fort Riley were marked by both fondness and difficulty. While my husband confronted the trials of active duty, I navigated the complexities of maintaining a home, supporting my family, and forging a career. In January 2018, my husband transitioned into the Louisiana National Guard, signifying the conclusion of one phase and the commencement of another. Upon our return home to Louisiana, we found that much had changed since our departure. For me, being a military spouse transcended mere role-playing; it embodied adaptability, strength, and a profound sense of community.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
I've had the privilege of assuming various leadership roles during my military spouse journey. Upon commencing my professional career, I represented the Red Cross across multiple military installations, including Fort Riley, McConnell AFB, Offut AFB, Fort Johnson, Barksdale AFB, NAS New Orleans, and Camp Arifjan Kuwait. Additionally, I extended support to Guard and Reserve units spanning Kansas, Nebraska, and Louisiana. One of my most notable professional achievements was a six-month deployment to Kuwait, where I spearheaded the American Red Cross' emergency communications, morale initiatives, and volunteer programs across the US CENTCOM region. During my tenure in Kuwait, I pioneered the establishment of the first volunteer program within a military treatment facility in the theater. Presently, I serve as the leader of national corporate social responsibility initiatives at Starbucks, Coffee Company focusing on the well-being of veteran and military communities.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
My engagement with the military and military spouse community is deeply entwined with both my personal and professional pursuits. Over the past decade, I have been fortunate to merge these two aspects, allowing me the privilege of seamlessly integrating my commitment to the military community into various facets of my life. In both personal and professional capacities, I have actively contributed to and supported the military spouse community. This involvement has not only been a source of personal fulfillment but has also allowed me to make meaningful contributions to the well-being and empowerment of those within the military sphere.

Describe how you support your community:
My passion and advocacy in the military spouse community epitomize inclusiveness, extending support to every military spouse, irrespective of background or circumstance. I am dedicated to fostering an environment that embraces diversity and ensures that the needs of all spouses are heard and addressed. With a commitment to unity and understanding, I actively work to support the holistic well-being of military spouses, recognizing the varied challenges they face. By championing inclusivity, I aim to create initiatives that resonate with and cater to the unique experiences of every military spouse, regardless of their service members rank. My advocacy transcends individual recognition, focusing on the collective strength that emerges when all spouses are empowered and supported. Through my endeavors, I aspire to contribute to a more connected and inclusive military spouse community, where each member feels valued and represented.

What do you advocate for? Why?
I advocate for addressing the root causes of the mental health epidemic within our veteran and military communities. Embracing an upstream approach, my focus is on implementing proactive and preventative measures to enhance mental well-being. I strive to create a comprehensive support system that identifies and tackles issues at their source, fostering a resilient community. As a yoga teacher, I also advocate for holistic well-being, emphasizing the powerful impact of mind-body connection. I aim to provide tools and resources that empower individuals to navigate the unique challenges within military life. In addition, my advocacy extends to fostering stronger connections among National Guard units. Recognizing the distinct challenges faced by these units, I advocate towards establishing a supportive network that strengthens the bonds within the National Guard community. By enhancing communication and collaboration, my goal is to better support the families of National Guard members.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
In my role as a yoga teacher, I've incorporated principles of mind-body connection into my advocacy work. I've organized classes and sessions that prioritize holistic well-being, highlighting how practices integrating mental and physical health can be transformative. I've empowered them to navigate the distinct challenges presented by military life. My advocacy extends to actively building connections and networks that enhance the support system within the veteran and military community. Through outreach programs, collaborative events, and communication initiatives. I've employed various platforms such as social media, community events, and partnerships with relevant organizations. In essence, my advocacy initiatives aspire to instigate enduring change by tackling the root causes of challenges, promoting holistic well-being, and cultivating stronger connections within veteran and military communities.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
My goals center around instigating positive change and leaving a lasting impact within the military spouse community. I intend to raise awareness about the diverse challenges encountered by veteran and military families, emphasizing the significance of connection. Leveraging this platform, I aim to advocate for enhanced support systems, resources, and policies addressing the unique needs of military spouses to help them thrive within their communities. Through strategic initiatives, active community engagement, and collaboration with organizations, my aim is to promote inclusivity and unity among military spouses from various backgrounds. Additionally, I seek to amplify the voices of underrepresented groups within the military community, ensuring their concerns receive attention and action. Ultimately, I hope to contribute to a more connected and empowered network of military spouses, where each individual feels supported, valued, and represented.


Leslie is an incredible force within the military and veteran community and has a gift for building connections anywhere and with anyone. This has enabled her to create meaningful change as a military spouse who has fully embraced the magnitude of that role in her personal and professional life. Because of her commitment to honor any individual’s journey (as well as her own), she creates an inviting ecosystem for people establish a sense of community and camaraderie rather than shouldering the distinct challenges and complexity of the military community alone. I know Leslie to always show up authentically and with grace, which inspires others to do the same and take courageous steps to building the networks and relationships needed to address the mental health epidemic. Leslie exemplifies everything that the AFI Military Spouse of the Year should signify.
- by Andrea Tharp

As a military spouse 12 years (1/2 of that time as an active-duty spouse), Leslie has built her career around her passion for advancing & advocating for the needs of veteran & military families. Leslie’s career began in the nonprofit world with the American Red Cross, Service to the Armed Forces program in Kansas, Nebraska, and Louisiana – and even overseas as she deployed as a civilian, supporting Red Cross operations for US CENTCOM. Most recently, Leslie has transitioned to empowering corporations to lean in and identify how they can support the needs of our military communities. Currently, Leslie leads the Starbucks veteran & military social impact program – working closely with nonprofits to address key issues and challenges through corporate resources. Leslie also mentors military spouses throughout her career, serving as a volunteer leader, social work internship instructor, and consistently empowering fellow military spouses to follow their passions, no matter what those are!
- by Rory Dugan

I’ve been a military spouse for about 12 years and about 1 month in to that time I met the person and friend I’d like to nominate, Leslie Jones. She has done so many things in our personal friendship that have been so inspiring to me. Outside of that, she has actively engaged in the military community with the Red Cross. She assisted in leading a group of fellow military spouses through a dental assisting program. This allowed several military spouses a chance at tuition free dental assisting training. Leslie now works for Starbucks and is once again in a role advocating and engaging our military community. Something I personally hold near my heart is she also has spoken to a group of our Vietnam Veterans. This took place during a ceremony that gave our veterans a chance at a “Welcome Home” they were so deserving of. Leslie truly embodies what it means to advocate and empower and I can’t recommend anyone more.
- by Jennifer Wiser

In my military career, I’ve met more military spouses than I can probably even remember, but if there’s one who stands out most, who has left the greatest impact on me, on our ranks, and in our lives, it’s Leslie Jones. Her sweet spirit, warm smile, and gentle soul helped carry us in one of the most difficult times of our lives. She was always patient, but persistent. She listened when we didn’t want to be heard, and helped bring us back to the top of the mountain when it seemed impossible to crawl out from the valley. But this was nothing new- this is how she lives her life each and every day. Always going out of her way to ensure others are well-taken care of and well-cared for. If there is anyone I feel deserves this most, it’s Leslie. She’s a pillar in her organization and in so many lives. Without her, the world, our world, my world, would be much darker. She deserves this most for her selfless and tireless service to the military, to their families, to her spouse, and to me.
- by Tiffany Mahr