On March 25, 2018, United States Navy DC3 Keon Dontray Nelson lost his battle with cancer attributed to his military service.
Keon was born and raised in Miami, Florida. The third of four children, and the only boy in the family, he had three sisters who he enjoyed playing pranks on. As a child, his hobbies were playing baseball, fishing, volunteering at his church, and spending many days earning badges as a Boy Scout. With his friends, he could be found outside riding bikes, swimming, and playing football in the streets. His childhood summers were often spent traveling to Georgia to visit relatives with his family. Keon grew up with unconditional love and memorable adventures.

Inspired by his father who was in the U.S. Army, Nelson wanted to enlist in the U.S. Navy and did so in September 2003. His goals were to travel and see the world, use his uncompromising work ethic to learn new skills and increase his education of the Navy ships operations. Nelson loved training others in his job field as a Damage Controlman aboard the USS Peleliu. Serving others was a core value that he abided by in the military, as well as in life. Nelson achieved many awards and accomplishments throughout his career, including a Navy Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. While deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, Nelson was exposed to burn pits ultimately leading to his diagnosis of Stage 4 Colon Cancer.

God was a significant part of Keon’s life, both in his adolescent and adult years. He grew up attending church regularly and continued to devoutly serve the Lord and others. His faith was the foundation on which he built his life.
In 2004, he met the love of his life, Shani, in San Diego, California. They married in 2006 and were blessed with four beautiful children: Keon Jr., Jeron, Malia, and Sean. Keon took great pride in being a Godly husband and was a very proud, ever-present father. Although he had traveled the world, his best life experiences were adventures that he shared with them.

Shani currently enjoys traveling with her four children, teaching financial education to youth, volunteering in many facets at her church, and pouring into others. Shani also speaks at events to aid and encourage others as they navigate through grief and loss. In the future, Shani is most excited to watch her children grow up and step into all that God has purposed for their lives, and to see them achieve their dreams.

Shani is immensely grateful to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation for providing her and her children with the security of always having a home. She now plans to take more vacations with her children and create beautiful memories together that they will all cherish forever.

United States Navy DC3 Keon Dontray Nelson leaves behind his loving wife Shani, their four children, his parents and sisters, and many extended loved ones. He was an exemplary man who will be lovingly remembered, forever cherished, and whose legacy will always be honored.