Parents mourn soldier killed days from end of tour

Private Kevin Thomas McKay was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated in southern Afghanistan on May 13, 2010.

Kevin McKay had his summer all planned out. The first stop was British Columbia, for a week of camping with his military pals, the “brothers” with whom he had served in Afghanistan.

Then he was going to drive across Canada to Barrie, where he had another trip planned with his friends in his hometown.

All that was left, his father Fred said Friday, was the countdown to his arrival back in Canada at the end of the month.

McKay – or Mickey, as everyone called him – was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Thursday while walking on a night patrol southwest of Kandahar City.

The 24-year-old private was completing his first tour with the Edmonton-based 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, and had been in Afghanistan since October.

“We were under the impression that he was out of the hot zone at the Kandahar Air Field,” said Fred, a captain with Toronto Fire Services.

He described his son as “everybody’s friend,” and the kind of “guy that would take his shirt off his back to help someone out.”

“We were kind of celebrating that he had made it, and that he would be home soon,” he said.

A carpenter by trade, McKay was doing a job he loved with the Canadian Forces, his father added. “He was there because he wanted the kids in Afghanistan to have a better life, and he was pleased that the Canadian forces were building schools and vaccinating kids.”

His last conversation with his parents was on Mother’s Day, when he phoned home to speak to his mom, Beth.

Scott Webb, who taught McKay in Grade 10 Canadian history at Eastview Secondary School in Barrie, remembers a personable student he’d chat with in the hall about sports.

“You don’t do that with every student,” Webb said. “He was a special guy. He was the kind of kid who stays with you, even after all these years.”

Born in Richmond Hill, McKay grew up around Barrie and spent much of his time outdoors. “He loved fishing and camping,” said Fred, and from a young age had started considering a career with the military.

In Grade 8, McKay did a project in which he tracked down all the local veterans who had died, many of whom had streets named after them in his neighborhood. From that time, he “had a soft spot for soldiers,” said Fred.

Sarah Myers, a friend of McKay’s based in Edmonton, said she became close to him through her boyfriend, who was also in the military. “Everything he said and did was good. He was a little man with a heart of gold,” said Myers.

“Nobody could be mad at him because he’s just too sweet,” she said.

“His loss will definitely be felt forever.”

McKay is the sixth Canadian military member to die in Afghanistan this year and the 144th killed as part of the Afghan mission since it began in 2002.

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