The young Italian officers exude pride as they walk to the Cova. While their medals refer to acts of bravery, the bravado they carry implies that they've detached themselves from the violence of the war. The narrator initially is bonded with them but since some of his medals were received simply by being American, he is distanced from them. The narrator is already 'in another country' (Italy) and he is further alienated when the 3 officers discover this fact about his medals. He feels some kinship with the major because the major has no time for bravado; the major seems to know the war more intimately than the narrator or the three young Italian soldiers. The narrator initially bonds with him, but is further alienated when the major breaks down after learning of the death of his wife. The medals themselves represent tragic events; so the narrator is alienated via those events and the medals. His isolation leads to further contemplation of his own bravery, or lack thereof, and his place in the war and in the world.