Faces of TAPS is a digital content series where, in their own words, survivors both celebrate the lives of their military loved ones and reflect on their personal grief journey.
Shelley Keas is the surviving spouse of United States Army Staff Sergeant Jeffrey Dallas Keas, who died from cancer on July 5, 2013, while stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. Shelley has honored her husband through running and outdoor adventures with TAPS, having climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with TAPS in 2015, trekking Machu Picchu with TAPS in 2016, and running in events throughout the country as a member of Team TAPS since 2013. She most recently completed the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C., honoring her husband, Jeff, with each and every step.
TAPS: What is the "why" behind the race for you? What was it about the Army Ten-Miler that made you choose this race to honor your hero?
Shelley Keas: I am running in honor of my husband, Jeff, because I want to keep his memory alive. We have grandkids who never met him, so it's just important to me that they know who their Papa was.
I chose the Army Ten-Miler because Jeff served in the Army. Having run with Team TAPS since 2013, I chose to make this one of my Team TAPS events in 2022.
TAPS: Can you share a favorite memory of your hero with us?
Shelley Keas: I have a lot of great memories of Jeff, but one great memory is when he decided to join the Army at 38 years old. All of us thought he was crazy. But, he did it...he got through bootcamp and served in the Army for over 6 years.
Jeff was a hands-on person. He always took care of things around the house. And similarly, when he joined the Army, he made sure that everything was taken care of when he deployed for the soldiers that he worked with or that reported to him. Whether that was building things that might be needed to assist everyone where he was located, or being the person out on the grill cooking the food for everyone — he was just that type of person, always making sure that everyone was taken care of and felt at home.
Jeff joined the Army because he wanted to make a difference, and he definitely did that. After he passed away, we heard so many stories about the difference he made in the lives of those young soldiers that he served alongside or led each and every day.
What Shelley discovered on her grief journey
TAPS: What gives you hope?
Shelley Keas: The future gives me hope. No matter what losses we have experienced or difficulties we are facing on a day to day basis, we always have hope that tomorrow will be better.
"No matter what losses we have experienced or difficulties we are facing on a day to day basis, we always have hope that tomorrow will be better."
TAPS: What surprised you the most about grief?
Shelley Keas: Grief doesn't have a timeline. Even though next year will be the ten year anniversary of Jeff’s death, there are still times that grief hits me when I least expect it.
TAPS: Why is it important to you to carry on your hero's legacy?
Shelley Keas: Jeff was able to meet our first grandchild, Garrett, but he was only 10 months old when Jeff died. We now have more grandchildren, and I want to make sure that all of them know their Papa. It is important to carry on Jeff's legacy by sharing pictures and stories we have of him — not only for the grandchildren, but for other family and friends who may never have gotten to meet this amazing man.
Team TAPS has been instrumental in helping me to carry on Jeff’s legacy. I have participated in Team TAPS events on an annual basis since October 2013 in honor of my hero, and will continue to do so for years to come.
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Shelley Keas is the surviving spouse of U.S. Army SSG Jeffrey Dallas Keas
Photos courtesy of Shelley Keas