Jeff Key (born 1966) is an actor, writer and former U. S. Marine and Iraq War veteran.
Key was born in the community of America's Crossroads between Cordova and Parrish in Walker County. He graduated from Walker High School in Jasper and attended classes at UAB for a while. After finally earning his degree from the University of Alabama in 1997, Key set out to pursue his dream of acting in and writing for independent films. He moved to Hollywood and took a job in wardrobe at Universal Studios, gradually getting small roles alongside more frequent work in commercials and community theater.
His life changed when he quit drinking, and he ultimately decided to enlist in the Marines, another goal he had held since childhood. In 2001, at the age of 34, Key joined a reserve unit and was moved to active duty following the attacks in New York and Washington D. C. that September. His unit was deployed to Iraq in March 2003.
While on duty near Badrah, Lance Corporal Key befriended a number of local children. He also kept a journal and started reading his daily entries to his fellow soldiers. His unit was assigned to guard captured palaces that were being looted. While helping unload a transmission from a truck he suffered a hernia which required returning to the United States for surgery.
Back in the U. S., Key began to view the course of the war in a different light. The objectives of the invasion were changing while the accomplishments made in exchange for the huge sacrifices were becoming less clear. During a nationally-televised appearance on Paula Zahn Now, Key announced that he had left the service by revealing his homosexuality and was starting a foundation, the "Mehadi Foundation", named after an Iraqi boy he had befriended. The foundation would help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders as well as send aid to benefit Iraqi children affected by the war.
He became active in the anti-war movement, even serving briefly as Cindy Sheehan's bodyguard during her vigil in Crawford, Texas. In New York, he started collaborating with director Yuval Hadadi to develop his journal into a performance piece. The result was Eyes of Babylon, an autobiographical one-man multimedia show performed by Key. The play debuted in San Francisco and was presented in Birmingham in August 2006 by the Birmingham Festival Theatre.
- Brock, Glenny (August 3, 2006) "Looking into The Eyes of Babylon". Birmingham Weekly.