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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The ball angled toward the front of the net off a corner kick. George Murray readied himself as it approached, then banged it into the net, punctuating his goal with a leap and a fist thrown in the air.

The celebration, 13 minutes into Nile C. Kinnick’s Japan Soccer League matchup with the Yokota Panthers, lasted for only a few seconds ... for a few reasons.

Yokota rallied for six unanswered goals to win 6-1, but Murray could be forgiven if his concentration is divided these days.

Half a world away, his father, Senior Chief Petty Officer Gerald T. Murray, toils in communications aboard the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“You know how they say our season could be in jeopardy,” Murray said, referring to rumors last week that high school sports might be axed if base force-protection measures are increased.

“I wonder how things are over there, and I wonder about our season. I just hope that he’s OK.”

Those sentiments are shared by his sister, Lisa, a freshman on Kinnick’s girls team, which beat Yokota for the second time this season on Friday, 2-0.

Though the soccer siblings attempt to set their feelings aside when they hit the practice field or play a game, they admit they’re not always successful.

“I try not to think about it,” Lisa said.

Because of security concerns, the Murrays don’t hear much from their father. “Before he left, he said he’d not be able to e-mail much,” George said.

The occasional e-mails that arrive contain heartfelt messages that are reciprocated by the elder Murray’s children. “I tell him I love him and want him to be careful,” Lisa said.

“Lately, we’ve not heard from him at all, not for a couple of weeks now,” George added.

It’s not something the two discuss with each other, George said. “She gets sad about it.”

So instead, they go about the daily routine of hitting the classroom and tackling afternoon soccer workouts in the chill of early spring. “I pray a little. Watch the news,” George said.

“When we come out here and practice and play, I just try to put all other thoughts aside,” Lisa said.

“We just do the best we can to leave all the other problems aside,” George added. “But it’s hard to forget about everything. And I don’t want my thoughts to affect the team.”

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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