Social scientists frequently use the iconic figure of the soldier who fights and dies for the nation to exemplify the power of processes of national identification. However, little work has considered how soldiers themselves orient to the possibility of being motivated by a desire to ‘serve the country’. The present study explored this through a series of interviews with members of the British Army and Territorial Army. Although in explicit talk about ‘the country’ the soldiers typically downplayed the importance of ‘serving the country’ as motivation, in discussing the prospect of a European army the national basis of armies was taken for granted. The findings are discussed in terms of the problematic nature of displays of English ‘patriotism’ or ‘pride’. It is argued that the relationship between national identity and military service, often assumed to be straightforward in social scientific texts, is oriented to as a delicate issue by soldiers themselves.