New Brunswick

From a moment to a monument: mystery soldier identified as N.B. man

After months of searching, Lt. Michael McCauley has been identified as the man on a B.C. memorial

October 05, 2017

Lt. Michael McCauley takes a moment next to his likeness on the Greater Victoria Afghanistan Memorial featuring his silhouette and that of a young boy he shared a handshake with more than a decade ago. (Amanda McCauley/Submitted)

A New Brunswick soldier has been identified as the man whose silhouette is immortalized on a wartime memorial in Victoria, B.C., honouring military personnel and public servants killed in the Afghanistan war.

The captivating image of a Canadian soldier reaching out to shake hands with a small Afghan boy has been seen across the globe since it was taken just over a decade ago. 


Taken by Reuters photographer Finbarr O'Reilly, it captured only a split-second meeting between the two, but it came to symbolize the Canadian mandate in the war-torn country of working hand in hand to rebuild the nation for a new generation. 

That image made its way in silhouette onto the Greater Victoria Afghanistan Memorial in British Columbia alongside the names of the 163 Canadians who were killed in the war. 

But despite months of effort, the Afghanistan Memorial Society could not find the identity of the soldier in the silhouette, until Amanda McCauley recognized her husband's likeness on the 8,100 pound slab of granite when it was featured in the news. 

Lt. Michael McCauley flew to the unveiling ceremony of the monument held last Saturday. 

"It's humbling, knowing that I was there to help represent the guys that will never get to see it," said McCauley after returning home from B.C. "I served with a lot of great people and I had the chance to serve with a few of the folks that never came back that are on that memorial." 

A moment in time

McCauley clearly recalls the day the iconic photo was taken. He said he was helping with training the Afghan National Army and security forces and was out on patrol amid some small towns. 

"There were a lot of villagers around and we felt relatively safe in the context of the environment at that time," said McCauley. "And there were a lot of children in the area, and one of the young boys was a little bit more adventurous than the others, I guess." 

McCauley said the boy extended his hand and McCauley took it, while O'Reilly — in the right place at the right time — snapped away. 

"It was a friendly gesture from one person to another," said McCauley. "I'll never forget that."  


Shane Fowler

Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.

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