June 21, 2011 -- "First thing I'm going to do is hug my sister," said Lance Cpl. Michael Acquaviva of the U.S. Marine Corps. This is what a drawdown means in human terms: more reunions, more sisters, fathers and children on a crowded, joyous search for a loved one.
"[It's] the most amazing feeling in the world," Acquaviva said. "The most amazing feeling in the world. You feel like a rock star."
Wednesday will mark the beginning of the end of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, though no one is saying the fight is over. But with Osama bin Laden's death, the monetary and human sacrifice already so great and pressure from the American people to end the war, President Obama says he feels it is time to start bringing the troops home -- even as he acknowledges that the sacrifice here is not in vain.
By year's end, there could be 5,000 or 10,000 more of America's daughters and sons out of harm's way. By the end of 2012, 30,000 could be out of Afghanistan.
When President Obama took office there were a little more than 34,000 U.S. troops in the country because Iraq was the focus. By the end of 2009, that number had doubled to 67,400. Today, with the surge of 30,000, there are nearly 100,000 in Afghanistan.
Since 2001, more than $288 billion has been spent on the war in Afghanistan. With a decrease of 30,000 troops, the U.S. would save at least $30 billion.
The human sacrifice has been significant as well. More than 12,000 have been wounded and 1,500 killed. It seems that everyone ABC News met in Afghanistan had lost a friend.
Sgt. Christian Gatison said it was too painful to say his buddy's name.
"I can't even get it out," he told ABC News.
That friend's name was Shaun Mittler, 32, and the father of a young girl.
Another soldier, Army Spec. Jacob Clausen, 29, of Los Angeles, said he heard relatives ask why the military was in Afghanistan.
"You get that a lot," he said. "A lot of family members don't want you to be overseas in a fight. I'd rather be bringing it here, over here, instead of it coming back on our home turf."