Major Bambi, USMC

Let’s just acknowledge something right off the bat: there’s nothing unmanly about liking the Disney movie Bambi. While we’re on the subject, we don’t think anything less of anyone who gets emotional while watching the scene where Bambi’s mother is killed. In fact, as long as we’re baring our souls, that scene was one of the most traumatic memories of this writer’s childhood.

Donnie Dunagan

Bottom line is that we see no reason to cast aspersions on any Bambi fans.

Having said that, we also understand why some people would not want to be closely identified with the movie or the character. If you’re trying to develop a reputation as a tough, no-nonsense kind of guy, “Bambi” probably isn’t your first choice for a nickname.

That’s why Donnie Dunagan cringed when he heard that name directed at him.

No one could ever accuse Donnie of being unmanly. Quite the contrary, he is the embodiment of courage and service to his country. He was drafted into the U.S. Marines when he was 18 years old. Over the next quarter of a century, he earned the respect of everyone with whom he served. He was promoted 13 times in 21 years, finally rising to the rank of major. Along the way, he was awarded the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts for his service during the Vietnam War.

That hardly sounds like the kind of guy who would earn a nickname like “Bambi,” does it? Despite the unlikelihood, that’s what scared this seemingly-fearless man. He would do just about anything to avoid getting labeled with that title. There was one time, for example, when a long-time comrade asked him to do some menial work at a time when Donnie was already swamped. Donnie recalled how the officer said, “Dunagan! I want you to audit the auditors.” Donnie respectfully asked, “When do you think I’m going to have time to do that?” The officer looked him squarely in the eyes and said, “You will audit the auditors. Won’t you, Major Bambi?”

That’s all it took to get this tough, battle-hardened Marine to find the time to audit the auditors.

Watch the famous and traumatic scene where Bambi’s mother is killed.

Why is it that this fearless man feared that name? Yes, it was rumored that as an adult, he was seen shedding a tear during a showing of the movie. Even if that was true, how could anyone doubt his heroism by that point? Who cares if this tough guy showed a tiny bit of tenderness?

It might have something to do with what he saw in the movie when he watched it as an adult. It was something that wasn’t there the first time he saw the movie, years before when he was a small child. The original 1942 release credited the animators, musicians, directors, and just about everyone associated with the movie. Oddly, the credits were silent about the actors who provided the voices for the beloved characters. When it was re-released in 1977, that oversight was corrected. For the first time, it was revealed to the whole world that the voice of the most famous deer in history was provided by then-7-year-old Donnie Dunagan.

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