Silhouetted figures on Afghanistan memorial brought to fore

Lt Michael McCauley takes a break from patrol in Panjwayi District of Afghanistan, July 2007. He is the silhouetted soldier on the new Afghanistan Memorial. Credit: File Photo/DND

Lt Michael McCauley takes a break from patrol in Panjwayi District of Afghanistan, July 2007. He is the silhouetted soldier on the new Afghanistan Memorial. Credit: File Photo/DND

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Playing a prominent role in this Saturday’s dedication ceremony for the B.C. Afghanistan Memorial will be Lieutenant Michael McCauley, a signals officer with the 4th Engineering Support Regiment based in Gagetown, N.B.

That’s because he is one of two central figures silhouetted in black on the 3.5 metre by 2 metre, 8,600 kilogram solid granite monument. The other figure is of an Afghani child shaking his hand.

On July 13, 2007, Lt McCauley was in Afghanistan as a reservist deployed as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT) when renowned Reuters combat photographer Finbarr O’Reilly snapped an image of him greeting the Afghanistan child.

“I don’t think I stopped walking for more than a few seconds when I reached out, took his hand and the photographer snapped the picture,” says Lt McCauley.
The image shows Lt McCauley conducting a Presence Patrol with members of his unit and Afghan National Security Forces (AFNS) in the highly volatile and dangerous Panjwai district of Kandahar Province. As the soldiers passed through a small town, Lt McCauley noticed a couple of young children playing by the roadside. As he and AFNS members greeted the children, one child took a particular interest in Lt McCauley and extended his hand to him.

The image of Lt McCauley and the child was chosen as the centrepiece of the monument shortly after the Greater Victoria Afghanistan Memorial Project (GVAMP) was formed in early 2016.

The soldier says the selected photo could have been one of the thousands of other Canadians who served there. He insists the imagery on the monument really has little to do with himself and more to do with the spirit of Canada’s humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan. He believes it is a good way to celebrate the comrades and friends he lost or were injured during the war, and hopes other provinces and communities across Canada follow GVAMP’s lead with similar monuments.

“I knew eight people personally on that monument that died in Afghanistan and many more that bear invisible scars,” says Lt McCauley. “So for me to be able to come to Victoria on their behalf and represent the guys who can’t be there to see it, it means so much to me.”

About the ceremony
The preliminary program begins at 1:15 p.m. on Sept. 30, at Courthouse Park (located at Quadra and Courtney St.) with a performance by the band of the 5th (BC) Field Regiment, RCA, and the choir of the Cathedral School. The military parade will arrive at 1:45 p.m. led by the Pipes and Drums of the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s). The dedication ceremony gets underway at 2 p.m. The monument will be unveiled by Her Honour, The Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, and Memorial Cross father Dr. Richard Nuttall.

It becomes the province’s official recognition of the more than 40,000 Canadian military personnel and civilian employees who served their country in Afghanistan, and the 163 who lost their lives during the mission.

Other officials attending the dedication ceremony will include British Columbia Premier John Horgan, Her Excellency Shinkai Karokhail, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Canada, senior leadership from CFB Esquimalt, and approximately 100 family members of 16 different British Columbians who died during Canada’s efforts to help the people of Afghanistan.

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