It was like that scene from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves where he picks up the soil and kisses it,” says Brandon Willitts, recalling the moment he returned home from Afghanistan in 2005. The first thing Willitts did when he touched down on American soil was spend some time standing alone on the tarmac in Pearl Harbor. The journey home had been lonely. As an intelligence analyst, Willitts handled classified material and therefore had the cargo bay of a C-17 to himself on the twenty-four-hour trip from Kabul to Hawaii via Ramstein Air Base in Germany and Seattle. The solitary experience stuck with him for several years; he describes it as a defining moment of his time in the Navy, amplified by the feeling of arriving to no one, then being told the next day that he would soon be headed back out on another deployment—to Iraq.
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