Author: Brian Mockenhaupt Category:


In The Living and the Dead, acclaimed journalist and Iraq War veteran Brian Mockenhaupt tells the gripping true story of three close friends—Tom, Ian, and Jimmy— at a Marine encampment in southern Afghanistan. While fighting a war many back home have forgotten, the devil dogs of Patrol Base Dakota face constant threat. Like soldiers throughout the ages, any moment could bring their deaths–or the deaths of their friends and brothers.

In a quiet moment, Sergeant Tom Whorl scribbles in a small notebook. “The worst feeling is not knowing when your last step will be. That’s what takes a toll on your brain.”

With those types of simple words and keenly observed moments, Mockenhaupt captures the gut-wrenching day-to-day, life-and-death struggles and triumphs of the men of Patrol Base Dakota. This is the reality of combat in the twenty-first-century: Walking gingerly across the Afghan countryside in a nerve-wracking hunt for cleverly hidden explosives that can easily tear a man in half. Living every day knowing that a split-second decision can haunt a man for the rest of his existence. Enduring the unendurable because you’ve signed up to do democracy’s dirty work, and because you owe it to the guys on your left and your right. Back home, your family lives in dread. They watch out the window for men in uniform with grim faces, carrying unimaginable news.

The Living and the Dead is a moving and timeless account of bravery, friendship, struggle and sacrifice in the face of unimaginable tests. An unforgettable tale of battles that continue to rage long after the final shot has been fired, written by a veteran warrior and award-winning writer.



What is so striking about The Living and the Dead is the way war journalist and former infantryman Brian Mockenhaupt drops readers right into a Marine unit as it patrols Taliban-held territory. Readers will feel like they are alongside the soldiers as they get shot at, or as they walk single file through fields that are strewn with buried bombs, or as they watch another step on a buried bomb, or as they exit their base each morning feeling nervous and fatalistic. In this way, we come to feel what is etched into the psyche of these soldiers–that they will likely die before their tour of duty ends. Their sense of foreboding is so strong that it becomes a ritual for them to say “I love you” to each other each day as they leave the base. Those in the unit who survive the tour in Afghanistan are haunted in unfathomable ways. Brian Mockenhaupt follows these soldiers as they reenter life back in the U.S., where the horrors of war continue to strain and break them. This is a highly compelling read from one of our best war-time writers. –Paul Diamond