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The word soldier derives from the Middle English word soudeour, from Old French soudeer or soudeour, meaning mercenary, from soudee, meaning shilling's worth or wage, from sou or soud, shilling.[1] The word is also related to the Medieval Latin soldarius, meaning soldier (literally, "one having pay").[2] These words ultimately derive from the Late Latin word solidus, referring to an Ancient Roman coin used in the Byzantine Empire.[1][2]


In most armies, the word "soldier" has a general meaning that refers to all members of any army, distinct from more specialized military occupations that require different areas of knowledge and skill sets. "Soldiers" may be referred to by titles, names, nicknames, or acronyms that reflect an individual's military occupation specialty arm, service, or branch of military employment, their type of unit, or operational employment or technical use such as: trooper, tanker (a member of tank crew), commando, dragoon, infantryman, guardsman, artilleryman, paratrooper, grenadier, ranger, sniper, engineer, sapper, craftsman, signaller, medic, or gunner, among other terms. Some of these designations or their etymological origins have existed in the English language for centuries, while others are relatively recent, reflecting changes in technology, increased division of labor, or other factors. In the United States Army, a soldier's military job is designated as a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), which includes a very wide array of MOS Branches and sub-specialties.[3] One example of a nickname for a soldier in a specific occupation is the term "red caps" to refer to military police personnel in the British Army because of the colour of their headgear.

Infantry are sometimes called "grunts" in the United States Army (as the well as in the U.S. Marine Corps) or "squaddies" (in the British Army). U.S. Army artillery crews, or "gunners," are sometimes referred to as "redlegs", from the service branch colour for artillery.[4] U.S. soldiers are often called "G.I.s" (short for the term "General Issue"). Such terms may be associated with particular wars or historical eras. "G.I." came into common use during World War II and after, but prior to and during World War I especially, American soldiers were called "Doughboys," while British infantry troops were often referred to as "Tommies" (short for the archetypal soldier "Tommy Atkins") and French infantry were called "Poilus" ("hairy ones").

Some formal or informal designations may reflect the status or changes in status of soldiers for reasons of gender, race, or other social factors. With certain exceptions, service as a soldier, especially in the infantry, had generally been restricted to males throughout world history. By World War II, women were actively deployed in Allied forces in different ways. Some notable female soldiers in the Soviet Union were honored as "Heroes of the Soviet Union" for their actions in the army or as partisan fighters. In the United Kingdom, women served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) and later in the Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC). Soon after its entry into the war, the U.S. formed the Women's Army Corps, whose female soldiers were often referred to as "WACs." These sex-segregated branches were disbanded in the last decades of the twentieth century and women soldiers were integrated into the standing branches of the military, although their ability to serve in armed combat was often restricted.

Race has historically been an issue restricting the ability of some people to serve in the U.S. Army. Until the Civil War, Black soldiers fought in integrated and sometimes separate units, but at other times were not allowed to serve, largely due to fears about the possible effects of such service on the institution of legal slavery. Some Black soldiers, both freemen and men who had escaped from slavery, served in Union forces, until 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation opened the door for the formation of Black units. After the war, Black soldiers continued to serve, but in segregated units, often subjected to physical and verbal racist abuse. The term "Buffalo Soldiers" was applied to some units fighting in the 19th century Indian Wars in the American West. Eventually, the phrase was applied more generally to segregated Black units, who often distinguished themselves in armed conflict and other service. In 1948, President Harry S. Truman issued an executive order for the end of segregation in the United States Armed Forces.[5]

Soldiers in war may have various motivations for voluntarily enlisting and remaining in an army or other armed forces branch. In a study of 18th century soldiers' written records about their time in service, historian Ilya Berkovich suggests "three primary 'levers' of motivation ... 'coercive', 'remunerative', and 'normative' incentives."[8] Berkovich argues that historians' assumptions that fear of coercive force kept unwilling conscripts in check and controlled rates of desertion have been overstated and that any pay or other remuneration for service as provided then would have been an insufficient incentive. Instead, "old-regime common soldiers should be viewed primarily as willing participants who saw themselves as engaged in a distinct and honourable activity."[8] In modern times, soldiers have volunteered for armed service, especially in time of war, out of a sense of patriotic duty to their homeland or to advance a social, political, or ideological cause, while improved levels of remuneration or training might be more of an incentive in times of economic hardship. Soldiers might also enlist for personal reasons, such as following family or social expectations, or for the order and discipline provided by military training, as well as for the friendship and connection with their fellow soldiers afforded by close contact in a common enterprise.[9][10]

In 2018, the RAND Corporation published the results of a study of contemporary American soldiers in Life as a Private: A Study of the Motivations and Experiences of Junior Enlisted Personnel in the U.S. Army. The study found that "soldiers join the Army for family, institutional, and occupational reasons, and many value the opportunity to become a military professional. They value their relationships with other soldiers, enjoy their social lives, and are satisfied with Army life." However, the authors cautioned that the survey sample consisted of only 81 soldiers and that "the findings of this study cannot be generalized to the U.S. Army as a whole or to any rank."[11]

The length of time that an individual is required to serve as a soldier has varied with country and historical period, whether that individual has been drafted or has voluntarily enlisted. Such service, depending on the army's need for staffing or the individual's fitness and eligibility, may involve fulfillment of a contractual obligation. That obligation might extend for the duration of an armed conflict or may be limited to a set number of years in active duty and/or inactive duty.

As of 2023, service in the U.S. Army is for a Military Service Obligation of 2 to 6 years of active duty with a remaining term in the Individual Ready Reserve.[12] Individuals may also enlist for part-time duty in the Army Reserve or National Guard. Depending on need or fitness to serve, soldiers usually may reenlist for another term, possibly receiving monetary or other incentives.

In the U.S. Army, career soldiers who have served for at least 20 years are eligible to draw on a retirement pension. The size of the pension as a percentage of the soldier's salary usually increases with the length of time served on active duty.[13]

Since the earliest recorded history, soldiers and warfare have been depicted in countless works, including songs, folk tales, stories, memoirs, biographies, novels and other narrative fiction, drama, films, and more recently television and video, comic books, graphic novels, and games. Often these portrayals have emphasized the heroic qualities of soldiers in war, but at times have emphasized war's inherent dangers, confusions, and trauma and their effect on individual soldiers and others.

Soldier is a 1998 American science fiction action film directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, written by David Webb Peoples, and starring Kurt Russell, Jason Scott Lee, Jason Isaacs, Connie Nielsen, Sean Pertwee and Gary Busey. The film tells the story of a highly skilled and emotionally distant soldier who is left for dead, befriends a group of refugees, then faces his former superiors who are determined to eliminate them.

In 1996, as part of a new military training program, a group of orphaned infants are selected at birth and raised as highly disciplined soldiers with no understanding of anything but military routine. They are trained to be ruthless professionals, and anyone considered physically or mentally unworthy is executed. The survivors are turned into ultimate fighting machines, but have no understanding of the outside world.

In 2036, Sgt. Todd 3465 is a hardened veteran and one of the original 1996 infants, but his unit is about to be replaced by a superior one, with the original unit likely to be deactivated. Colonel Mekum, leader of the original project, introduces a new group of genetically engineered soldiers, designed with superior physical attributes and a complete lack of emotion, except complete aggression.

Captain Church, the commander of Todd's unit, insists on testing the new soldiers' abilities against his own. One new soldier, Caine 607, easily defeats three of the original soldiers, but Todd gouges out Caine's eye before falling from a great height; the body of a dead soldier cushions his fall, and he is knocked unconscious. Mekum orders their bodies disposed of like garbage, declaring them obsolete, while the remaining older soldiers are demoted to menial support roles.

Dumped on Arcadia 234, a waste disposal planet, Todd limps toward a colony whose residents crash-landed there years earlier; as they were believed dead, no rescue missions have been attempted. Todd is sheltered by Mace and his wife Sandra. Though they try to make him welcome, Todd has difficulty adapting to the community due to his extreme conditioning and their conflict-free lives. While Todd develops a silent rapport with their mute son, Nathan, who had been traumatized by a snakebite as an infant, he soon begins to experience flashbacks from his time as a soldier and mistakes one of the colonists for an enemy, nearly killing him. To make matters worse, in a later conflict with a coiled snake, Todd forces Nathan to face it down and strike back to protect himself. His parents disapprove of the lesson, unsure of how to deal with Todd. 041b061a72


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