I am biased in my opinion of this subject. I serve with pride for my country and do it voluntarily. There are many thousands just like me who wake up each day and put their uniform and boots on to perform our duties. Does this make us Patriots? Not this alone, so no.
A Patriot is someone who will stand up for their country no matter what is going on in politics or in the military. On 9-11-01 I was deployed in support of operations in the middle east. I saw first hand the patriotism in Soldiers with me swell beyond belief when they found out our country was kicked in the ass by a coward. We all noticed when we got home how our hometowns had become patriotic with flags everywhere. It was amazing to see that much pride showing. Then about two years later those same patriotic towns did not even have a flag up and if they did they were dirty and shredded. It was a bit embarrassing but it was not unexpected. It does not take a scholar or a nightly news hack to see that our country is based on the flavor of the week and most times that flavor is what ever that nightly news hack is feeding.
When Hurricane Katrina destroyed the gulf states the outpouring of support to the region was great, the outpouring of criticism to a sitting President was horrible. The way people complained was as if they thought he could control the weather and purposely directed the hurricane into New Orleans. This was not the case however the problem sat with the bureaucrats in almost every department in government. The outpouring of support was awesome, it was not patriotic however, it was human nature.
These are just two recent historical issues that showed Americans at their best and worst.
Back to my original question of myself. Does being a Soldier make us Patriots? Definitely not alone. You have to still serve with pride and spread our values around the world. Let people know you are proud to be an American each day you wake up. This is even when you wake up and the weight of the world is on your shoulders. By international means we are still a young country however we have advanced a long way in the short time we have been around. These advances have led to us having people hate us. We do not need to hate ourselves.
So when you travel or you meet travelers here, let them know you are American and you are proud. Cockiness is ok in this instance.
Be patriotic all year not just when it is commercially convenient.