A monument depicting a Canadian soldier reaching out to an Afghani child will be unveiled in Victoria, BC in late September as a tribute to all the Canadian heroes of the Afghanistan Conflict.
“The memorial is not in the traditional mould of a military memorial, if you will…we tried to make it a little more important,” explained BGen. (ret’d) Larry Gollner, Afghanistan Memorial board chair.
The Afghanistan Memorial in Victoria is several years in the making and was initiated by the City Council of the City of Victoria. Over time it has grown to involve many community partners, including the Province of British Columbia.
Victoria, and British Columbia at large, were heavily impacted by the War in Afghanistan, much like the rest of the country. From its naval community, tasked with bomb disposal, to local militias, many of Victoria’s residents were part of the conflict and many prominent families lost loved ones.
“The memorial recognizes all that served in Afghanistan. Those that returned with wounds, both physical and mental, and also the families and the loved ones that remained at home. And honours the sacrifice of 162 Canadians that lost their lives in Afghanistan,” said Gollner.
The figure includes the 158 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members killed in Afghanistan and the four members of the Government of Canada.
The monument is a glass sculpture that weighs 22,000 lbs. Along with the image of the soldier and child, it includes an inscription in French on one side and English on the other. The monument also includes the names and dates of all those Canadians killed in Afghanistan.
To make the monument more personal and significant, the Afghanistan Memorial board decided to choose the image of a Canadian soldier and an Afghan child taken by Reuters photographer Finbarr O’Reilly in Panjwaii on July 13, 2007.
It was by pure coincidence, that Lt. Michael McCauley and his family were watching news coverage of when the monument was being transported to British Columbia from Quebec, where it was made. It so happened, that McCauley was the CAF soldier pictured in the Reuters image.
He reached out to Gollner and now McCauley and his wife will be attending the unveiling ceremony in September.
The dedication ceremony, which will be held on Sept. 30, is expected to be “simple, short and dignified.” It will start off with a luncheon hosted by BC’s Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon for the BC Memorial Cross families invited to attend the ceremony.
Following the luncheon, will be a short unveiling ceremony.
“It’s going to be hard on the families and we know that,” said Gollner who explained that the ceremony will be short so the families are not burdened.
The Memorial Cross families are being brought in from across the province and their travel and board is being looked after.
The memorial will be located on the edge of public green space behind the BC court house and opposite Christ Church Cathedral. It will be close to downtown Victoria and Pioneer Square, which contains other memorials to those who served Canada during the war.
The memorial will be wheelchair accessible.
The Afghanistan Memorial Dedication Ceremony will take place on Saturday Sept. 30 at 1 p.m. PST. For more information about the ceremony visit the Afghanistan Memorial Project website .