JJ Pryor is a running back for the East Catholic Fighting Crusaders football team, he tries to earn a full athletic scholarship to play at the University of Notre Dame, but can only earn a partial scholarship. He later applies for and is accepted to Lehigh University, but a nagging ankle injury ends his pro football career so he enlists in the United States Marine Corps to pay for school. Meanwhile, JJ's on-again, off-again girlfriend Beth Mason chooses to attend the University of Pennsylvania in order to be near JJ.
JJ excels at boot camp and arrives in Vietnam. While on leave, he and Beth are reunited in Hawaii where they break up, but Beth soon learns she is pregnant with JJ's child, and she moves in with the Pryors.
An injured JJ wakes up in an American military hospital, and learns of his forthcoming child. He gets recruited for special, somewhat mysterious duty for the US government. As Thanksgiving nears closer, JJ is captured by the Viet Cong. He and his sergeant escape, but are presumed missing in action (MIA). JJ returns home, becomes a Marine recruiter and suffers from post-traumatic flashbacks. He and Beth get married in a ceremony held at the Pryor's catholic church. He applies for and receives a job in aeronautics, assisting in space suit design for future NASA missions to the moon.