Whistles from the Graveyard

My Time Behind the Camera on War, Rage, and Restless Youth in Afghanistan


“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(s)

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 RealClearPoliticsWhistles 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

More Military Policy