About 500 people paid their respects Friday at a funeral for a 26-year-old Navy veteran who was among the victims of the Aurora movie theater shooting.
Jonathan Blunk, who served three tours in the Middle East from 2004 to 2009, died after shielding a girlfriend and telling her to stay down when a heavily armed gunman burst into the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 people and wounding 58 others.
James Holmes, 24, a former doctoral student in neuroscience, was charged with dozens of counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder in the July 20 attack, one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history.
Blunk, a 2004 graduate of Hug High School in Reno, lived in Aurora and worked for a small flooring company.
His wife Chantel, daughter Hailey, 4, and son Maximus, 2, were joined at the full military funeral by dozens of service members. Blunk and his wife were separated but on good terms and remained good friends.
"How do you tell them the situation, when I can't understand it myself?" asked Chantel Blunk, who said Jonathan was supposed to be home the Saturday after the attack.
"My daughter had already picked out her dress and made her sign," she said. "When I told her daddy wasn't coming home, she didn't understand. She asked if he would be here for her birthday."
Chantel Blunk said she wasn't surprised that John died trying to save someone else's life.
"Whether he knew the person or not, he would have tried to save them. That's just Johnny," she said. "I am strong for my children. My son has his blue eyes. My daughter has his smile. It's like I still have him in them."
"Honestly, he was one of those really nice, kind people," said Amy DeGuzman of Bremerton, Wash., his supervisor in the Navy and a pallbearer. "Everybody really loved him. He wanted to help people out."
Blunk was an avid outdoorsman and gun owner.
He had planned to re-enlist in the Navy in hopes of becoming a SEAL after shrinking agency budgets stalled his goal of becoming a police officer, said James Gill of Brighton, Colo., his roommate in the Navy.
Blunk was a certified firefighter and emergency medical technician who spent the bulk of his time in the Navy aboard the USS Nimitz.
"He was a fantastic guy," Gill said. "Everybody was family to him."
Contributions from a variety of sources, including the Reno Aces baseball team and the USS Nimitz, will go toward support of Blunk's wife and children, DeGuzman said.
"These kids will not want," she said. "We want to make sure the family has enough so Chantel can provide for them. She's still in shock, and she's trying to raise kids and they're young."
Blunk's wife and children are temporarily staying with her parents in Reno. She has worked as a model to help make ends meet and hopes to return to school in the future, DeGuzman said.
Copyright Report a typo or inaccuracyCopyright 2012 TheDenverChannel.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.