John Tyree (Channing Tatum) a young soldier from the Army Special Forces, is lying on the ground in his combat gear with multiple gunshot wounds, thinking about Frankey Bignall. Coins begin to fall over him as he recalls a childhood trip to the U.S. Coin mint. He goes on to compare himself to a coin in the United States Military and states that the last thing he thought about before he blacked out, was "You".
In 2000, John is on leave when he meets Savannah Lynn Curtis (Amanda Seyfried), a college student on spring break. In a matter of days, Savannah and John fall in love. John meets Savannah's family as well as her neighbor, Tim Wheddon (Henry Thomas) and Tim's autistic son, Alan (Luke Benward), who looks up to Savannah. Savannah meets and befriends John's father, a reclusive man who is only interested in his coin collection. John tells Savannah that his father has always been obsessed with coins and has not been much of a father to John, whose mother is not in the picture. Savannah mentions to John, that his father, like Alan, may have autism. This upsets John, who believes Savannah is calling his father retarded. He is so caught up in his anger that he gets into a fight with Savannah's rich neighbor, Randy (Scott Porter), accidentally punching Tim in the process. John apologizes to Tim the next day and leaves Savannah a note, seeking her forgiveness before his leave comes to an end. Savannah gets the note, and they spend one last day together. John returns to the army and he and Savannah begin a long distance relationship through handwritten letters. John believes that year will be his final year of enlistment, but, following the September 11 attacks, is torn between returning home and his sense of duty. He is given a weekend off, which he spends with Savannah and her family as well as with his father. He asks Savannah for her opinion on whether or not he should re-enlist, and she tells him to do what he feels is right. Like the rest of the soldiers in his unit, John chooses to re-enlist.