But as CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports, for Americans at a marine camp, today produced a drastically different reminder.
Gas, gas, gas: three words that can freeze a desert.
"We just got word, over. There is something tripped. An indicator told everybody to mask up. It's not a drill," says one marine.
It turned out to be a false alarm, but no one knew it at the time -- not the marines scurrying across camp, not those in their armored vehicles nor the troops donning their masks in the PX. This false alarm made the desert eerily quiet.
But the quiet was broken elsewhere in the desert by a reminder of the risks troops face.
Four helmets, four rifles and four empty pairs of boots belonged to four soldiers killed when an army chopper went down early Tuesday morning during training.
Investigators are still trying to figure out exactly what happened, but a quick moving stand storm may have blinded and disoriented the pilots. It's the kind of weather that U.S. troops could see again and again in a war with Iraq. March is notorious for sandstorms.
"We're in a very dangerous business and that's brought home every day we crank these aircraft and go fly or whatever we do," says Col. Bill Wolf of the U.S. Army.
Today in Kuwait was a day to remember -- to celebrate the past and to mourn the present.
"Good practice for everybody I guess," says a marine.
But practically, it prepares for a future that could see plenty more of both.