On July 8, he was seriously wounded by mortar fire, having just returned from the canteen bringing chocolate and cigarettes for the men at the front line. Despite his wounds, Hemingway assisted Italian soldiers to safety, for which he received the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery. [note 2] He was still only 18 at the time. Hemingway later said of the incident: "When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you . . . Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you. " He sustained severe shrapnel wounds to both legs, underwent an immediate operation at a distribution center, and spent five days at a field hospital before he was transferred for recuperation to the Red Cross hospital in Milan. He spent six months at the hospital, where he met and formed a strong friendship with "Chink" Dorman-Smith that lasted for decades and shared a room with future American foreign service officer, ambassador, and author Henry Serrano Villard.
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