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“Bambi,” the beloved Disney classic, was released in 1942 and many people know the voice of Bambi was done by young Donnie Dunagan. However, what many may not know is that Dunagan grew up to be a badass three-time Purple Heart recipient and a United States Marine Corps Major.
Born in 1933, Dunagan was only eight years old when he secured the part to play the voice of Bambi who is the main character in the Disney movie.
He was living in poverty in Memphis, Tennessee with his family when he won a $100 prize at a talent contest just prior to his fourth birthday.
While at the event he was spotted for talent and offered an opportunity for his family to move to Hollywood and pursue a career for him in acting.
The movie was released by RKO Radio Pictures in August 1942 during World War II and was just the fifth animated feature film produced by Disney.
The movie was initially considered a box office disappointment due to only earning a little over $1.2 million in its initial run.
However, it was also later considered fine filmmaking and grew to become a cult classic that is often referred to as one of the greatest Disney films of all time.
With re-releases, rentals, and other methods of reaching new audiences, it soon grossed more than 267 million worldwide.
That was the first and final movie Donnie Dunagan would ever star in during his youth. He ended up joining the military right when he turned 18 in 1952.
He excelled through the recruit training and was selected to be a drill sergeant, and at that moment, he became the youngest drill sergeant in the history of the United States Marines.
Dunagan served a distinguished 25 years earning 13 promotions throughout his career and eventually ranking up to become a Major.
He served three tours in Vietnam, was wounded on multiple occasions, was awarded a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts, and finally retired in 1977.
Dunagan is still alive today living in Texas and plans to celebrate his 89th birthday in the summer of 2023. He’s still one talented and dedicated individual with a personality of innocence and toughness at his core.