Heading home, wounded U.S. troops reflect on war

Lance Corporal Stephen Aythens

BAGRAM AIRFIELD - The day after the president's announcement, some of the wounded troops volunteered to talk with CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark about how they see the war today. Twenty-year-old Lance Corporal Stephen Aythens is a Marine combat engineer from Alabama. Last week, he stepped on a land mine and lost his legs.

"I was walking and I hear 'boom!' I can't see, I can't hear, it's ringing in my ears and I feel like I'm flying and I hit the ground," he tells Clark.

Aythens told us he doubts people back home understand the reality of war.

"Video games today, 'Call of Duty' and everything, it makes it look so easy just to run around and kill everyone," Aythens said. "But this war, you don't know the difference between an enemy and a friend. They look like the civilians, the civilians look like them. Sometimes they are the enemy and you don't know it."

The enemy is elusive and, right now, the combat is growing more intense. A bomb went off near 20-year-old Private James Sitter of North Carolina and destroyed his hearing in one ear. He told us half his platoon has been injured.

"We're getting our replacements in, but there's no way you can fill up half a company, half a platoon. You gotta start learning to work with less," he said.

With his platoon short-handed, he told us he'd rather go back than go home.

"It's like, once you're put in a platoon, it's like a family. You want to go back," he said.

The decision to begin pulling out was made halfway around the world in Washington. What the men here know is Afghanistan is still a work in progress.

"Did you feel like you were making gains?" Clark asked them

"Truthfully, really no," Aythens said. "I do not believe that we are making gains but we are doing the best we can."

Now a new summer fighting season is beginning and as the temperature rises, so almost certainly, will the casualties.