As more U.S. soldiers lose limbs in Afghanistan, doubts about a war that's "winding down"

(CBS News) BETHESDA, Md. - After the Supreme Court rulings Thursday, President Obama met for three hours with 52 wounded service members being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.

The last American combat troops are expected out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. But don't tell the troops at Walter Reed the war in Afghanistan is winding down. Amputations -- many of them multiple -- have gone up to more than 20 a month.

Staff Sgt. Eric Meyers was on his third tour in Afghanistan when he stepped on a booby trap -- a so-called improvised explosive device made from fertilizer smuggled in from Pakistan. He lost both legs.

Far from being over, the fighting in Afghanistan "is starting to pick up," Meyers said. "All the fighters from Pakistan are starting to show back up ... so it's starting to pick up. Pretty intense."

And while people in the U.S. may thing the war in winding down, "Over there, on the ground, it's not winding down," he said. "It's still ust as intense as it was."

Lance Cpl. Chad Ohmer was also hit by an IED.

"They're bad. They're bad. There's a lot of them out there and that's what's getting most of the people out there," Ohmer said.

Ohmer, whose wife is expecting, was on his second tour in Afghanistan. He said it wasn't any less intense on his second tour.

"No, not really. They're still fighting. Just seems like the more we push, the more they bring in more and keep on fighting," he said.

Ohmer did not lose any limbs, but the physical therapy room is filled with soldiers and Marines who have.

Lance Cpl. Timothy Donley lost both his legs and very nearly his right arm as well -- where he now has an enormous scar.

"I lost this whole piece of my arm -- so my arm was just holding on to this little piece here," Donley said, indicating point near his elbow. "I thought I was going to lose it but the doctors managed to save it."

Afghanistan has left an indelible mark on these young men. One of them, Lance Cpl. Garret Carnes has made it even more indelible with a tattoo.

"This is supposed to represent me and my two buddies who wound up getting hurt," he says, showing the tattoo. He will be keeping a reminder of that moment -- in more ways than one -- for the rest of his life.

"The moment changed my life so might as well embrace it," he said. "Don't resent it, just embrace it."

As troops head into another summer of fighting, the hard truth at Walter Reed is that Afghanistan changed them more than they changed Afghanistan.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.

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