Warrior Transition Brigade soldiers, family and friends celebrated the life of Staff. Sgt. Jeffrey Dallas Keas during a memorial ceremony July 17 at the 73rd Street Memorial Chapel.
The 44-year-old Bixby, Okla., native died July 5 from a terminal illness at his home in Temple. He was assigned to the brigade’s Charlie Company, 1st Battalion.
Lt. Col. Christopher Cook, battalion commander, praised Keas for his exceptional leadership and honorable and valiant service.
“A superb soldier and a magnificent noncommissioned officer, Staff Sgt. Keas served with marked distinction and honor throughout his career,” said Cook, adding that Keas was on the fast-track to a stellar career.
“Recognized early on for his exceptional leadership abilities, he was quickly promoted and became a noncommissioned officer,” he said. “Whether serving in Korea, deployed to Iraq or serving stateside here at Fort Hood, he was a gifted leader who was committed to taking care of our soldiers.”
Calling Keas “brave, selfless and always dedicated to the service of others,” Cook said he will be greatly missed.
“He was loved and respected as both a fellow soldier and as a brother,” Cook said. “He was an inspiration to us all, and he will continue to impact the soldiers that had the privilege to serve with him.”
Cook closed his remarks by thanking Keas’ family for the staff sergeant’s honorable service.
“Our Army owes a great deal of gratitude to each of you for the very honorable service rendered to our nation by this remarkable noncommissioned officer,” he said. “Know that the soldiers with whom he served will never forget Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Keas and that each of you will always be honored and cherished members of the Army family.”
Offering his condolences to Keas’ family members, Capt. Mark Cahill, Charlie Company commander, said Keas will always be remembered as the “true embodiment of the values we hold dear in the Army.”
“The soldiers with whom Jeffrey served have a great deal of respect and love for him. He made a lasting impact on everyone he served alongside,” he said.
Cahill praised his courage and strength, even when he found out the cancer had returned.
“I never saw him lose hope. I never saw him discouraged. He continued to fight with incredible fortitude,” he said, sharing stories of how Keas would always make jokes during his treatments at Scott & White. “He was the type of soldier that every commander is grateful to serve with, and his passing is truly a loss to the Army.”
In the first of two soldier tributes, Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Berger called Keas a “top-notch NCO” who was an inspiration to all.
“He demonstrated the leadership skills that are desperately needed in today’s Army,” he said, attributing Keas’ quick climb from squad leader to platoon sergeant to his “initiative, drive and motivation” and for his “filling in the gaps to accomplish the mission” even when it meant taking on additional responsibilities.
Keas, who was an air defense enhanced early warning operator, recorded more than 4,500 hours in his maintenance log. Additionally, Berger said, Keas was instrumental in refining mortar and artillery tactics, techniques and procedures during his 2009-2010 Iraq deployment.
As an air defender, Berger said, Keas “passionately served to preserve freedom for future generations.”
“To say that he will be deeply missed is a statement that cannot be accurately defined,” Berger said. “He will always be remembered here as a true patriot who just wanted to make a difference for people. ... And he did.”
Staff Sgt. Derek Chance, who was Keas’ squad leader, called the soldier both a brother and a friend, and expressed his regrets for not knowing Keas before he became ill.
“There is so much that can be said of Staff Sgt. Keas,” Chance said. “During the brief time that I have known him, I have realized that he was one of those soldiers that you would want to work with. He always had a great attitude no matter the situation. He was one of the guys that would go out of his way to help any and everyone that he knew.”
Chance noted Keas’ “strong moral character, love of family and community” were driving factors behind his 2007 enlistment.
“Staff Sgt. Keas joined the Army at 38 years old with the mind-set on helping other soldiers get home to their families,” he said. “Along the way, he not only helped everyone he came in contact with, but he also became a true leader. He was one that took care of his soldiers and took pride in the work that he did.”
Maj. Kyle Welch, the brigade chaplain, praised Keas for “embracing his community to confront and integrate his suffering.”
“He seized the gift of life and the love his community offered bringing him hope and peace,” he said. “While physical healing was only a temporary gift for Staff Sgt. Keas — as it is with all of us — his embrace of community gave him ultimate healing: The ability to receive and give love in community.”