This We'll Defend

A Noncombat Veteran on War and Its Aftermath

By Paul Crenshaw

208 pp., 5.5 x 8.5

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5107-1
    Published: September 2019
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-5108-8
    Published: August 2019
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5708-8
    Published: August 2019

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In June 1990, Paul Crenshaw shipped out for basic training for the National Guard. By August, Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait. Each day brought more news of mobilizing forces. For weeks, Crenshaw was told he was going to war, but after graduation, he went back home to Arkansas and watched CNN every night, lying about how much he wished he had been deployed.

Later, after Crenshaw had gotten out of the army, he began to question the reasons for the wars we fight. The essays here follow his time in the service, from Basic Training to weekend National Guard drills and the years after. Crenshaw moves from eager recruit to father worrying that his daughters might enlist. He watches the airplanes strike the Twin Towers and sees two new wars ignite out of the ashes of the old. He writes as a soldier who did not see combat but who wonders what constant combat might do to U.S. soldiers, how it affects them, and how the wars we fight affect us all. These essays reflect deeply on American culture and military life—how easily we buy into ideas of good versus bad, us versus them; how we see soldiers as heroes when more often than not they are young boys barely old enough to shave; how many return home broken while we only wave our flags instead of trying to fix them and the ideas that sent them to war.

About the Author

Paul Crenshaw is the author of This One Will Hurt You. His essays and short stories have appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Pushcart Prize, Oxford American, Glimmer Train, and Brevity, among others.
For more information about Paul Crenshaw, visit the Author Page.


"Crenshaw's prose is elegant, nicely paced, and carefully constructed. This thoughtful meditation on war is worth lingering over."--Publishers Weekly

“Complex intertwining of a deep personal and familial connection to our armed forces with profound reservations about the meaning of military service pervade this slim volume. . . . The insight Crenshaw offers into the baser instincts of young military men is raw and unflinching. This [is] a valuable read for those who will lead such troops. . . . [and] raises important questions for all of us about the nature of our militarized society.”--ARMY Magazine

“These woven essays are a masterful reckoning of the notion that war makes a man. A potent and true antidote to one of our longest-running yet false myths.”—Donald Anderson, editor, War, Literature & the Arts

“Crenshaw deeply investigates his time in the National Guard, including what led him there and its lingering effects. The lyricism and metaphor he draws from the relationships and routine of military life strike a truly haunting chord that I found both unflinchingly revealing and surprisingly relatable. An essential book for our moment.”—Jac Jemc, author of The Grip of It and False Bingo

“When Henry James coined the phrase ‘the real thing,’ he must have been thinking about Paul Crenshaw. Through superb prose and an insider’s perspective, Crenshaw has created a book that is completely necessary.”—David Lazar, author of I’ll Be Your Mirror: Essays and Aphorisms