Hornaday Road Welcome

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Carrick's neighborly neighbors

By Tony LaRussa


Monday, August 7, 2006

1st Lt. Bob Muessner.jpg Photo by Justin Merriman/Tribune-Review

Army 1st. Lt. Bob Meussner stands by some of yellow ribbons and U.S. flags along Hornaday Road in Carrick that welcomed him home from Iraq in June.

Some of the color has faded from the yellow ribbons and tiny U.S. flags that adorn nearly every tree and pole along Hornaday Road in Carrick.

But the spirit that prompted residents to decorate the neighborhood to welcome Army 1st. Lt. Bob Meussner home from a tour of duty in Iraq in June is as bright as ever.

"I guess we kind of take it for granted that not every block or neighborhood is like this one," said Donna Grab, who lives next door to the Meussners. "If somebody offered me a new house somewhere else, I wouldn't take it. I can't imagine finding a better place to live."

This weekend, for example, residents gathered for their annual yard sale and neighborhood cookout, giving everyone a chance to mingle.

Paul Jankowiak, an Oliver High School teacher, said residents along the quiet street behave in a way that some might not expect in a city neighborhood.

"It's very much like the way things were when I was growing up during the 1950s and '60s," said Jankowiak, 56. "You get a feeling that when they ask how you're doing, it's more than just a courtesy, they really want to know. And when you go on vacation, you can count on someone keeping an eye on your house, and offering to take your garbage to the curb."

On the day Meussner was scheduled to return home, residents along Hornaday waited until his parents, Bob Sr. and Charlotte, left for Johnstown to pick up their son before festooning the ribbons and flags to trees and poles.

When the Meussner family turned off Brownsville Road onto their block, they were met by a group of neighbors who gathered to wave and cheer. A pair of kids on bicycles carrying flags -- Grab's grandchildren Ryan Milcarek, 10, and Erin Milcarek, 8 -- provided an impromptu escort to their home at the end of the block.

"It was pretty emotional to see what the neighbors did for me," said Meussner, 24, who spent the bulk of his military tour providing security for Iraqi police recruits in Ramadi, a city of 400,000 people that is part of the Sunni Triangle and a major staging area for the insurgency.

"A lot of the neighbors showed their support for me while I was Iraq by sending cards, letters and care packages," Meussner said. "Having that connection with folks back home was really a big boost."

He said the sight of his neighbors waving flags and greeting him when he returned home "was a phenomenally emotional experience."

Meussner plans to continue his military service as a member of the National Guard and is hoping for a career in law enforcement.

His father said the outpouring of support was particularly poignant when he compares it to his own military experience in Vietnam in 1969.

"A lot of people made comments to try to make us feel ashamed of our service," said the elder Meussner, who recently retired after 32 years as a guard at the Allegheny County Jail. "So when I see how my neighbors treated Bobby, all I could think was, 'God bless them.'

"This is the way it's supposed to be. These people will always be in my prayers."