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“The most bracingly honest, refreshing account of the Afghan war” (Sebastian Junger, New York Times bestselling author) from a Marine Corps Combat Cameraman and director of the acclaimed documentary Combat Obscura.
At just eighteen years old, Miles Lagoze joined the Marine Corps a decade after the war began and found himself surrounded by people not unlike those he’d left behind at home—aimless youth searching for stability, community, and economic security.
Deployed to Afghanistan as a Combat Cameraman—an active-duty videographer and photographer—Lagoze produced slick images of glory and heroism for public consumption. But his government-approved footage concealed a grim reality. Here, Lagoze pulls back the curtain and illustrates the grisly truth of the longest war in American history. As these young men and women were deployed to an unfamiliar country half a world away—history’s “graveyard of empires”—they carried the scars of the fractured homeland that sent them. Lagoze shows us Marines straddling the edge of chaos. We see forces desensitized to gore and suffering by the darkest reaches of the internet, unsure of their places in an unraveling world and set further adrift by the uncertain mission to which they had been assigned abroad.
Whistles from the Graveyard shows the parts of the Afghanistan War we were never meant to see—Afghan locals and American infantry drawn together by their fears of the ghostly, ever-present terror of the Taliban; moments of dark resignation as the devastating toll of years in war’s crossfire reveals itself between bouts of adrenaline-laced violence; and nights of reckless, drug-fueled abandon to dull the pain.
In full, vivid color, Miles Lagoze shows us an oft-overlooked generation of young Americans we cast out into the desert, steeped in nihilism, and shipped back home with firsthand training in extremism, misanthropy, and insurrection.
About the Author
Miles Lagoze is the critically acclaimed director of the 2019 documentary Combat Obscura. The footage used in the documentary was obtained when Lagoze enlisted as an eighteen-year-old Combat Camera in the Marines and deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. His writing has been published by The Paris Review and RealClearPolitics. Whistles from the Graveyard is his first book.
"A raw, introspective look at the harsh realities of war, a vivid snapshot of some of the soldiers who were sent to fight the 'Global War on Terror,' and a story of the human 'costs' of endless wars"
—Francis P. Sempa, Real Clear
"Gonzo, ghoulish, and unforgettable: one of the strongest books yet to emerge from America's misadventure in Afghanistan."
—Kirkus (starred review)
"This may be the most bracingly honest, refreshing account of the Afghan war that I've ever read."
—Sebastian Junger, New York Times Bestselling author of War and Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging
“Lays bare just how far from the truth the official word is. . . this book is tremendous.”
—Andy Levy, from The Daily Beast’s The New Abnormal podcast
"Whistles From the Graveyard hits, immediate and ruthless. An important and courageous record of a catastrophic time."
—Sean T. Conroe, author of Fuccboi: A Novel
"The Marine Corps is a weird place and when you go to war everything only gets weirder. You see beauty and horror, tragedy and joy, savagery and kindness. In short, it’s a mess; and it takes a camera obscura to capture it all. Miles Lagoze did this in his groundbreaking film and he’s going to do it again in his memoir."
—Elliot Ackerman, National Book Award Finalist and author of Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning
“If the military is a microcosm of our country, Miles Lagoze's book is a warning for our society--an indictment of not just our greedy war machine but of the culture that ignores and even supports it. Lagoze turns on a night vision camera in a dark corner and instead of scattering, the roaches flock and perform, reveal their true selves. Shelve it aside Michael Herr's Dispatches and Evan Wright's Generation Kill."
—Matt Young, author of Eat the Apple
Praise for Miles Lagoze's Combat Obscura
“An eye-opening dispatch from a conflict mired in confusion.” —The New York Times
“The camera documents reality as it simultaneously creates a version of it – a mix of therapy, confessional, and a mirror held up to young, grime-streaked faces.” —The Washington Post
“A warts-and-all approach at in-the-trenches behavior and misbehavior.” —The Hollywood Reporter
“An unexpurgated ‘making of’ of the Afghan Campaign. This remarkable film comes across as war’s backstage story – it’s about the stuff they leave out of the official coverage.” —Film Comment
“So raw the Corps doesn’t want you to see it. One of the most genuine looks at what the Forever War was like for those who waged it.” —Task & Purpose
“Depicts the war beneath the narratives, capturing the soldier’s experience with an immediacy that explodes political abstraction, placing it in a more humanist context.” —Newsweek
“A filmmaking masterpiece… The film’s true brilliance lies in its situational hysteria, a scene-by-scene unpredictability that serves as a microcosm of a war with no end — and no definitive outcome — in sight.” —Military Times
“Detonates any lingering fantasies of military heroism.” —AV Club