Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph A. McKay, 51, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
SFC McKay was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry Regiment (Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition), New York Army National Guard, Jamestown, N.Y.; died from wounds sustained June 26, 2008 near Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan, when his convoy encountered improvised explosive devices, small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. Also killed were Sgt. 1st Class Matthew L. Hilton and Spc. Mark C. Palmateer.
Daily News -- Sgt. 1st Class Joseph McKay would have celebrated his 52nd birthday on the Fourth of July.
Instead, heartbroken relatives will be planning to bury the Queens soldier after he was killed in Afghanistan, Defense Department officials said Sunday.
"I told him, 'Try to get back home. Don't be a hero,' " said McKay's best friend, Newton Baptiste, 58.
Baptiste said his buddy loved celebrating his birthday on Independence Day.
"He always said, on his birthday, everybody celebrates," Baptiste said outside McKay's home in Cambria Heights. "The last Fourth of July I enjoyed here with him."
McKay, who leaves behind a wife, a daughter and two sons, was due home on leave next month.
"Everybody is saying it can't be true," said McKay's sister-in-law Diana Coleman. "Nobody can accept it."
McKay and Spec. Mark Palmateer, 38, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., were killed when a roadside bomb hit their convoy on Thursday.
Their convoy was also hit with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire, military officials said. Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Hilton, 37, of Livonia, Mich., was also killed in the attack.
The men were serving with B Troop, 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry, based in Jamestown, N.Y., which is helping train the Afghan Army.
Five New Yorkers have now been killed in Afghanistan in a week. Just days ago, three New York National Guardsmen died.
McKay, who joined the New York Army National Guard in 1977, signed up full-time after Sept. 11. He guarded Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station in the days following the attack, earning a New York State Defense of Liberty Medal.
Coleman said her brother-in-law would give his Army meals to homeless people in the rail stations, prompting one homeless man to send him a Christmas card.
"It was truly heartrending," Coleman said.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph A. McKay was killed in action on 6/26/08.