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The North Bend Eagle


Kane leaving Morse Bluff for second tour in Iraq

by Nathan Arneal
Published 5/5/10

The Rev. Brian Kane still vividly remembers his first impression of Morse Bluff.

“My first day of driving to Morse Bluff, which was Sept. 30, 2006, I drove down Main St. and said ‘Wow,’” he said.

Moving out
Rev. Brian Kane packs up the communion chalice after the last of his St. George's parishioners filed out of Sunday's Mass. The May 2 service was Kane's last in Morse Bluff before being called to active duty with his National Guard Unit.

Now, three and half years later, Kane will be leaving Morse Bluff and going back to where he was before being assigned to the St. George’s and Sacred Heart parishes: Iraq.

His last Mass in Morse Bluff was Sunday. On Monday he was on his way to Lincoln to meet up with his National Guard unit.

“I think (Monday) it will be a similar experience,” Kane said. “I’ll drive down Main Street saying ‘wow,’ but for a different reason.”

Kane is a member of the 67th Battlefield Brigade of the Nebraska Army National Guard, and for the second time in five years, he and his unit are being called to active duty.

Kane’s first stop will be Camp Guernsey, Wyoming, where the 67th will train in environmental conditions similar to Iraq. Kane said the Army has built miniature towns and bases to recreate the sense of being deployed. They will even have scenarios set up to train the chaplains like Kane, such as mass casualties at a field hospital, memorial services or different counciling scenarios.

After spending all May in Wyoming, the 67th will return to Lincoln for a couple of weeks of leave. Kane said he will use the time to visit his parents in Maryland. The second half of June will be spent on more training in Lincoln.

In July the group leaves for Fort Lewis in Washington state. Once there, the unit will be considered mobilized and on active duty with orders to deploy. July will be spent at Fort Lewis training and certifying in such tasks as reaction to IED explosions, combat first aid and interacting with locals.

At the end of July, the 67th, along units from Connecticut and Utah, will leave for Kuwait to acclimate before heading to a base in Iraq. In all, about 1,000 troops will be in Kane’s group.

The mission of Kane’s unit will be to aid the Iraqi’s in reconnaissance and surveillance, something Kane said the Iraqis don’t really have to technology to do for themselves.

President Obama set a deadline to have all American combat troops out of Iraq by August, about the time Kane and his unit will be arriving in Iraq.

“We’re going to be going into Iraq not as combat troops,” Kane explained, “but as surveillance and reconnaissance. By the time our tour is up it will be almost to the deadline President Obama has set to have all troops out of Iraq. So we we’re not sure if we may be helping close down some bases by the end of our time there.”

Kane said his unit’s tour will run through the early summer of 2011.

Besides being pastor at St. George’s and Sacred Heart, Kane also served as principal at Neumann High School in Wahoo. He said he has permission to leave training to attend Neumann’s graduation on May 15, and we wants to try to make it to North Bend Central’s on the 16th as well.

Normal priest changes are made by the bishop the second week of June. Until that time, when a permanent pastor will be assigned to Morse Bluff, Rev. Jeff Eickhoff will serve as the temporary administrator. He works at the seminary in Seward and will come to Morse Bluff for the weekends.

Kane said letters informing priest of their new assignments will be going out next week, so Morse Bluff should know who its new priest will be fairly soon. Kane expects that whoever is assigned to Morse Bluff will also serve as Neumann’s principal, as he did.

Kane said he could return to the Morse Bluff parishes when he is done with his deployment. While it is not likely, he said, it is possible.

“Put it this way, no one has said ‘no’ yet,” he said with a smile.

Even if he is not reassigned to Morse Bluff, Kane hopes to visit when he returns to give a presentation about his deployment and share stories.

Kane is in his seventh year in the Guard and is the only Catholic priest in the Nebraska Army National Guard.

“So even if I wanted to quit, it wouldn’t be very good,” he said.

Kane said Sunday’s farewell service was tough to get through with dry eyes.

“It was not easy,” he said. “It’s been a blessing for me to be here, every moment of it. That makes it more difficult to say goodbye, knowing how so many people have invited me to be part of their families through difficult times and tragedies, and at the same time being able to share their joys.”

Morse Bluff was Kane’s first experience in a small town, and the village’s hospitality and generosity will leave a lasting impression, he said. He also hopes his former parishioners will remember him while he is in harm’s way.

“Last time I was deployed, we experienced the power of prayer in a very powerful way in some very dangerous situations, where I could not explain why something bad didn’t happen,” he said. “So I’ve asked that people pray for us while we’re gone.”

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