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Desperate for money, Tom Brown agrees to fight in a boxing match. Although he loses, he earns enough for a meal at Elmer "Slim" Whitman's diner. Two men from the American Legion come into the diner while Tom is eating and pay for his meal in honor of his father, who received a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor. When Slim learns that Tom's father was the doctor in his regiment, he offers him a job. But a little later, Slim fires him to allow him to take a position at Culver Military Academy, which is paid for by the American Legion. Tom is bitter about his father's death, blaming his mother's death on the hardships it caused, and he does not want to go to the Academy. He fares badly at first, but soon makes friends with some of the other boys and becomes quite happy. Over the Christmas vacation, Tom visits Slim with his closest friend, Robert Randolph, III. Tom is unaware that his father is alive and is residing at the town hospital, having deserted after being driven crazy by the sound of gunfire. When Slim brings the boys to the hospital to deliver Christmas presents, Dr. Brown is allowed to see his son. After Tom returns to Culver, his father visits him and tells him that he is his father and a deserter. Tom prevents his father from killing himself and insists that he will leave Culver to be with him. When Tom tells one of the teachers that he is leaving school, however, the teacher explains that Tom's father was affected by shell shock and has been honorably discharged. Tom then pins the Congressional Medal on his father, who has decided to stay with Tom.