Have you ever heard of Donnie Dunagan? Yeah, me neither. You’ve probably never seen his face either. But I would venture to bet that you’ve heard his voice.
“Commander Dunagan” earned a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts in the jungles of Viet Nam.
Dunagan’s Bronze Star came when he pulled a wounded radio operator to safety under withering enemy fire. Marines with whom he served said that Donnie Dunagan was a soldier’s soldier. He received thirteen promotions in twenty-one years, and was once loaned to the Army as a counterintelligence officer.
All during his stint in the Marine Corps Donnie Dunagan kept a dark secret.
Dunagan said, “I was trained to be one of our Corps’ leading gunfighters. If these guys, who would have followed me anywhere, found out . . . they would have teased me into oblivion.”
So what was the dark mystery Donnie Dunagan carefully sheltered?
When Donnie was five years old a talent scout spotted him in a dance contest in Memphis and whisked him and his family off to Hollywood. He landed a couple of small parts including one as the boy in “Son of Frankenstein.” Then, in 1940, Walt Disney signed Donnie to be the voice of Bambi. That’s right, rough tough Commander Dunagan was Bambi. No wonder he never let anybody know.
Word finally leaked out with the re-release of “Bambi Special Edition” and 70-year-old Retired Commander Dunagan loved every minute of his rediscovered fame.
Donnie attributes a scene in the movie with saving his life.
He said that after Bambi’s release the notoriety ruined his family. Donnie’s mother and father split up and he wound up in an orphanage.
There in that orphanage five-and-a half year old Donnie determined to make something of his life. By the time he was 13 he was supporting himself and making straight A’s. At 18, he enlisted in the Marines. Dunagan spent the next 25 years earning the respect of his fellow soldiers and the thanks of a grateful nation.
Dunagan said that through it all one scene kept him going. Bambi’s mother had been killed and Bambi, in shock and terror, lay incapacitated beside her. Bambi’s father suddenly appeared and urgently whispered, “Bambi, get up! You must get up.”
Donnie said, “All my life I’ve remembered that. And I always got up.”
That’s great counsel for a young fawn and its good advice for us too. I don’t know what you are going through right now but don’t quit. Don’t give in to despair. Better things are in your future. “You must get up.”
Read James 1:12