First of all, this is, of course, my personal opinion, and one that I know a large number of people will violently disagree with. However, a fact is often nothing more than a well-argued opinion and so I'll try to argue this one.

Being a soldier is an ugly, dirty and wrong job. It consists of killing people, training to kill people, or assisting others in killing people. In an ideal world, there would be no need for soldiers, so even if we may occasionally need them in our non-ideal world, there's no reason to glorify them.

Many people will tell you how the work of a soldier is to protect his country and that that's the greatest and most noble kind of work anyone can do. IMO they're either trying to bullshit you into fighting wars for them that will bring them (not you) more money and power, or they've bought into that lie themselves.

In the end, it's all about you, your gun, and that guy over there and his gun. You don't want to die so you'll try to kill him first, and that's easier if you hate him, and once you're frightened and hateful enough you'll try to kill all his buddies too, and eventually you'll care jack shit if you kill a couple, or a dozen, or a hundred innocent civilians, women and children, in the process of making sure there's nobody left who could kill you. You'll have made the world an uglier place and yourself an uglier person, and it will matter little if it seemed like a just cause at first. Even worse, technology makes it possible to do all this without endangering yourself very much, and without facing the consequences of your actions. People die screaming, lumps of torn and charred flesh, and the one who dropped the bomb and the one who ordered him will just talk and think about "accomplished objectives".

So what's supposed to be great and noble about that? Countries aren't people. They don't deserve loyalty or sacrifices. Patriotism is a tool used by power-hungy politicans to switch off people's brains and make them easier to control.

Yes, there are causes worth fighting, perhaps even killing for. A country is not. A form of society that enables people to live happily may be. The lives of your friends and family almost certainly are. But that doesn't make the fighting itself, or the preparation for it, in any way noble. At most, it should evoke the kind of respect one may feel towards garbage collectors - it's not a beautiful or clean job, but it's necessary (And in the case of war, this necessity should be thoroughly doubted in every case).

In response to Simulacron3:

Sure, individual soldiers aren't responsible for starting a war, but they are responsible to giving in to hate and taking it out on innocents. And very few people indeed are immune to such impulses - just look at the staggeringly high percentage of Americans whose knee-jerk response to the World Trade Center terrorism boils down to "bomb something, anything". For soldiers, it's pretty much part of the job, and that's why I don't think that job deserves any kind of respect, though individuals and their actions may deserve it in many cases.

And any kind of glorification or uncritical respect of the profession just makes it all that easier for politicians to whip up support for wars that are somehow desirable to them.