GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Donnie Dunagan is a name you might not recognize at first. If you dug deeper, though, you’d be surprised to discover he was the star of Disney’s Bambi. Despite being the voice of a frail, gentle deer, Dunagan was anything but.
Following his acting career, Dunagan enlisted in the Marine Corps. He became the Marines’ youngest drill instructor, serving 25 years and three tours in Vietnam before retiring as a Major after several injuries that earned him three Purple Hearts. After his military career he disclosed how he did everything he could to hide the fact he was Bambi from his fellow Marines, afraid of how they would treat him if they ever found out his secret.
“I just thought to myself, ‘I don’t think I want all these young Marines to start calling me Major Bambi,’” Dunagan commented. “And I kept my mouth shut.”
Today Dunagan resides in San Angelo with his wife, Dana. Occasionally he partners with Goodfellow Air Force Base and has nothing but pleasant stories to share about his experiences working with our service members.
“I have never witnessed a military base - any - that has a sense of neighboring and helping others more than Goodfellow,” said Dunagan. “Indeed, and sadly, a few bases of all our services could take a citizen leadership lesson from Goodfellow’s roster of champs.”
Dunagan was happy to share a fond memory from a few years ago of his partnership with Goodfellow while he was serving as a member of the Board for the local Salvation Army. Dunagan wanted to build a playground for the children on the Salvation Army property. He found a company that made good, affordable equipment. It wasn’t until Dunagan received the equipment for the playground that he realized he didn’t know how he was going to put it all up.
“We thought to ask our Goodfellow neighbors since we knew they had young and bright adults that might pitch in a little,” Dunagan said. “I remember my quote, ‘If we could get eight or maybe 10 volunteers with basic put-together-tools to help us, we could get this playground equipment up in at least 24 or so work hours.’”
What ended up happening? That Saturday, a bus from Goodfellow pulled up with approximately 28 service members. They went to work and the whole playground was up on the lot and complete within seven hours.
“When I called the production company and told them seven hours, I think they may have thought I was fibbing,” Dunagan said. “Unmatched achievement by Goodfellow.”
Dunagan also shared a more recent memory he had with an outstanding member of Goodfellow on a rainy day. He was driving back from the grocery store when he noticed a man on all fours doing something beside a sedan stuck at the curb. It was a sergeant from Goodfellow, in uniform, trying to get a tire jack out from under a woman’s sedan. He had parked his car right behind hers with his hazard flashers on. He got up, put the flat and jack into her trunk and told Dunagan that he noticed the woman in the rain trying to use the jack. He stopped and encouraged her to get back into the car with her two children while he took care of it.
“Lots of pick-ups and cars must have driven by that woman, but no one stopped except the Air Force sergeant,” Dunagan said. “I wanted his name so bad.”
Looking back on his life, from being Bambi to serving in the Marine Corps, Dunagan offered some inspirational words.
“As one’s life matures, you remember, like flashbacks, the positive things with others - those actions that you never wanted or needed any thanks for. Remember the small things that gave you a little unexpected smile and happy heart. The volunteering and helping so openly of our Goodfellow troops is an example to all of us.”