Were you at the Veterans Day parade in Petaluma?

It was huge, a moving festival of rifles, flags, boots, smoke-trailing aircraft, chest medals, jeeps and other battle hardware, cheers, tears and crisp military salutes.

If you didn’t know better, you might have thought it was a celebration of war. And hereabouts some people regard it as just that.

But that parade didn’t honor war. It solemnly acknowledged that warfare has been integral to American history since the country was born through vi0lent revolution and less than a century later went to war with itself.

War has always played a major role in defining America and its place in the world, and it continues to do today. But the Petaluma parade did not celebrate war, rather the men and women who didn’t choose their battles any more than a firefighter chooses her emergency calls or a teacher chooses his students.

The soldiers young and old who accepted Sonoma County’s gratitude on Wednesday fought because their country asked them to. Had there been no wars, they’d have been content to stay at home or to don their uniforms and stand watch over America.

I hope to live to see parades that celebrate the end of war. Not a war, all war. I will expect that the happiest people in the procession and along the route will be the veterans who know what war really was.