RENO, Nev. (AP) – Jonathan Blunk had high hopes for the future. The 2004 graduate of Reno’s Hug High School wanted to become a Navy SEAL.

But a gunman barged into a crowded Colorado theater and opened fire, killing Blunk and 11 other midnight moviegoers.

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“It is with heavy hearts that Kathleen and I learned today that Jonathan Blunk, a Navy veteran and a hero, lost his life in yesterday’s tragic shooting in Colorado,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a statement Saturday. “Yesterday’s horrific act made us all stop and remember how special life is. Kathleen and I extend our thoughts and prayers to Jonathan’s Blunk’s family.”

Blunk, 26, served three tours in the Persian Gulf and North Arabian Sea between 2004 and 2009, said close friend James Gill of Brighton, Colo.

Blunk most recently worked at a hardware store, but planned to re-enlist with a goal of becoming a Navy SEAL after shrinking agency budgets sidelined his goal of becoming a police officer, Gill said.

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“It was guts or glory for him,” Gill told The Associated Press. “It always surprised me that he didn’t serve in a situation more on the front line. He wanted to be a first responder on the front line.” Blunk was also a certified firefighter and emergency medical technician, Gill added.

Blunk’s friend, Jansen Young, told the Today Show that he saved her life by throwing her to the ground and telling her to stay down.

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Gill, an electrical engineer, had lived several years with Blunk in the Navy and later again in Aurora, Colo. He said the circumstances surrounding his friend’s death didn’t surprise him.

“That’s something he would do,” Gill said. “If he was going to choose a way to die, that’s how he wanted to go – defending someone from a (person) like that.”

“He was a fantastic guy. Everybody was family to him. He would have done anything for everything at the drop of a hat,” Gill added.

Gill described his friend as an avid outdoorsman and gun rights advocate. Blunk had planned to get a concealed weapons permit, but hadn’t gotten around to applying for one, he added.

“Pretty much every weapon the guy in the theater used, he owned,” Gill said. “If you asked him if he was still alive, he would have said his only regret is he didn’t have his sidearm with him and he couldn’t do anything to stop him.”

His estranged wife, Chantel Blunk, lives with their 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son in Sparks. The couple met during high school.

– By MARTIN GRIFFITH, Associated Press

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