Sgt. 1st Class Joseph McKay would have celebrated his 52nd birthday on the Fourth of July.
Rose McKay (center) weeps over death of husband Joseph McKay (below), who would have turned 52 on July 4.
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.
Five New Yorkers have now been killed in Afghanistan in a week. Just days ago, three New York National Guardsmen died.
Sgt. First Class Joseph McKay
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.
Palmateer's only daughter, Stephanie, 19, told the Daily News on Sunday that her dad was known as Uncle Mark to the kids in his neighborhood.
"There were so many people that loved him," she said. "He made friends everywhere he went. He was really outgoing. He would do anything for anybody."
Spc. Mark Palmateer
Palmateer joined the Guard in 2003. He is also survived by his father.
"I want to thank the troops 100%, and I support them," Stephanie Palmateer said.
Newsday - Guardsman from Queens killed in Afghanistan by Erik German