HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - Still wearing his Army-issue camouflage uniform, Lt. Col Rob Movshin stood in his driveway late Saturday afternoon surrounded by family and friends, waving to nearly 100 cars that drove by to welcome him home from a 10-month tour fo duty in Kosovo - just minutes after he returned home
His boots were on the ground for just a short time before the sirens and honking horns peeled through the trees and over the rooftops..
"That's when I knew something was up," he said.
Movshin had actually returned to the United States two weeks ago with his New Jersey National Guard unit, the 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team out of the Lawrencevillle Armory in Mercer County. The unit, numbering 150 soldiers, was held in quarantine at a government facility in New Mexico to ensure there was no evidence of anyone having the coronavirus.
Early Saturday, they boarded an Air Force jet and flew east to McGuire, where his wife Diane was waiting to pick him up and drive home where he knew his three sons would be waiting.
That was the extent of the homecoming as far as he knew.
The tribute was a surprise planned by his wife, Diane, and good friend Scott McCauley, who were in contact by cell phone the entire day. They had reached out to longtime friends, family and the neighbors to be a part of the surprise.
"They had it really well coordinated," Movshin said.
Cars started lining up at the Willow Road recreation fields parking lot around the corner from the Movshin residence about 30 minutes before McCauley got the call that Diane and her husband had arrived home.
Movshin was distracted by high-fives and hugs from his three sons - the oldest, Noah is 18 and will follow in his father's footsteps; after graduation this year, he's headed off to Army basic training. Adam is 15, and Brody is 5.
He hadn't had a chance to see the elaborate signs neighbors had installed on their front lawns.
Led by a police escort, the caravan made its way to Movshin's neighborhood before leaning on the horns and hitting the sirens.
"I had my 15 minutes of fame. It was humbling," Movshin said. "I don't deserve this, but my wife said 'Yes, you do.' "
This was not the first time friends and neighbors welcomed Movshin home on a grand scale.
He was honored by a drive-by tribute in 2012 when he returned from a deployment to Afghanistan.
He noted that many of the young drivers honking at him Saturday sat in the back seats of their parents' cars in 2012.
"Hillsborough is a special town the people, my friends, my family, my neighbors, they're all great people and that's one of the greatest things about Hillsborough," he said. "It's really tough to put it in to words, but to feel that kind of love is amazing - these people support me and my family when I go away on one of these deployments."
Movshin's unit was assigned to a United Nations multi-national detachment, with armies of 29 different countries working together, including Belgians, Germans, Turks, Irish, Canadians, Austrians, Lithuanians, Portuguese and others.
"One thing I can tell you, everybody over there is envious of the faith and trust Americans have in their military, soldiers, sailors, airmen," he said. "It was an excellent experience working with all of them.
"The last thing we were working on before we left were COVID-19 contingency plans," he continued. "Their biggest problem in Kosovo is that they're landlocked; if you didn't have it, you weren't going to get it. We were really lucky to get out of there when we did."
Movshin will have this week to decompress and get re-acclimated to life as a civilian before returning to his job with a container shipping logistics firm in the Elizabeth, Newark and New York ports