John Keller is a native son of New Orleans born into a middle- class family. He attended the elite St. Stanislaus College Preparatory from the age of twelve. While there he was a member of the ski team, the yacht team, and the captain of the basketball team. He graduated as the first black student to be voted senior class President. Instead of going to college, Keller chose to pursue a military career. He was a member of the U.S. Marines 1st Reconnaissance Marine Battalion Special Forces Team during the initial U.S. invasion of Iraq in Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm. After four years of service, he was honorably discharged after toxic exposure to chemical agents compromised his health. He returned to the Crescent City a decorated veteran and honored with a Key to the City.
The physical and emotional trauma of the war had left Keller with PTSD. But despite his condition, he heroically and selflessly rescued over two hundred people trapped by the flood waters atop his apartment complex in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.