The film opens in 1956 Massapequa, New York, with a 10-year-old Ron Kovic playing with his friends in a forest. On his Fourth of July birthday, he attends an Independence Day (United States) parade with his family and best friend Donna. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy's televised Inaugural address of John F. Kennedy inspires a teenage Ron to join the United States Marine Corps. After attending an impassioned lecture by two Marine recruiters visiting his high school, he enlists. His decision receives support from his mother, but upsets his father, an United States Armed Forces veteran. Ron goes to his prom, and dances with Donna before leaving for United States Marine Corps Recruit Training.