KIRKSVILLE, MO—Jon Strauss, 22, a Kirksville video-store manager, announced Monday that he supports U.S. troops "100 percent"—with the exception of the ones with whom he went to high school.
"My heart goes out to the troops, and I pray for their safe return," said Strauss, a 1998 graduate of Kirksville High School. "Except for that dick Andy Tischler. I hope the Iraqis capture him and torture his wedgie-inflicting ass."
Though he expressed mixed feelings about the war against Iraq, Strauss said he feels it is vital for Americans to stand united behind the nation's fighting men and women in uniform. He draws the line, however, at his former classmates.
"Troy Nowicki, this guy who was in my junior-year gym class, is in the Navy now," Strauss said. "He was on the football team, and he used to love to tease me and give me purple nurples and generally make my life miserable. Once, he head-butted me so hard, I couldn't hear for an hour. Fucking asshole. Yeah, I'm really praying for his safe return."
Strauss has tied a yellow ribbon around a tree in front of his parents' home, where he is temporarily living, to show his support for the troops. He also sports an American-flag pin on his shirt at work.
"We can't let our soldiers feel like they're also facing an enemy on the homefront," Strauss said. "They have enough to worry about without hearing that their own country isn't behind them. Could you imagine how demoralizing that would be? It would be as traumatic as the time I had to give a speech on the Teapot Dome scandal at a school assembly, and Ricky Dorner kept whipping pennies at me the whole time. Ricky's a Marine now, and I heard his division got deployed to Tikrit, where they came under heavy fire from the Republican Guard. Haven't heard a casualty report yet."
Strauss, like many Americans, said he believes the U.S. has learned its lesson from its poor treatment of Vietnam War soldiers. Today, even the staunchest anti-war activist is likely to agree that the soldiers are only carrying out the will of the policy-makers and deserve the nation's sympathy and good wishes.
"For a lot of young people, the military is the only option," Strauss said. "Like Frank Deroia, this burnout who used to sit at the back of the school bus and loudly make fun of my clothes every day. Well, he joined the Army, and now I guess he's being treated like some kind of hero because he was one of the troops who secured Baghdad International Airport. Meanwhile, I've got a bachelor's degree and I'm stuck in Kirksville working at Blockbuster. How is that fair?"
Strauss' friends say they are well aware of his feelings about America's troops.
"Jon was very moved by the horrible POW ordeal of Pfc. Jessica Lynch," longtime friend Will Arbus said. "He said she seems like a really sweet girl, the kind of person who would treat classmates with kindness and respect. Nothing like Lance Corporal Craig Veryzer of the 103rd Infantry. Apparently, Craig was fond of ridiculing Jon's less-than-perfect skin. Boy, does Jon hate that prick."