By GILLIAN FLACCUS and KRISTEN WYATT
AURORA, Colo. (AP) - A U.S. Navy veteran who served three tours of duty in the Middle East. A 6-year-old girl excited about learning to swim. A Target employee who shielded his girlfriend and her brother with his own body. They and nine others were killed in the shooting rampage during a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in a Denver suburb. Here are their stories:
Jonathan Blunk had high hopes for the future, with plans to re-enlist in the Navy and the goal of becoming a Navy SEAL.
The 26-year-old served three tours in the Persian Gulf and North Arabian Sea between 2004 and 2009, said close friend James Gill of Brighton, Colo.
"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.
He died in the shooting Friday after throwing himself in front of friend Jansen Young and saving her life, she told the NBC "Today" show. He told her to stay down.
"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."
Blunk, a 2004 graduate of Hug High School in Reno, Nev., most recently lived in Aurora and worked for a small flooring company.
His estranged wife, Chantel Blunk, lives with their 4-year-old daughter and 2- year-old son in Reno.
Alexander J. Boik, an 18-year-old known as AJ, had a reputation for making people laugh and tried to bring back the mullet hair cut in his freshman year of high school.
"He tried to rock the mullet," said Tyler Lynch, 20, who played baseball with Boik on their high school team.
Boik, a catcher who played on the team through his junior year, had recently graduated from Gateway High School in Aurora. He also played in the school orchestra.
He was to start classes at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in the fall. Gateway principal Bill Hedges said Boik planned to become an art teacher.
A friend, Jordan Crofter, described Boik as someone who "didn't hold anything back. He was just his own person."
"He was a ball of joy. He was never sad or depressed. He wanted everybody to be happy," Crofter said.
The family said in a statement that the 18-year-old was loved by all who knew him and was dating "a beautiful young lady" who was with him at the theater and survived.
Crofter said Boik and his girlfriend made a "perfect couple," and people expected them to get married.
"If he were still here, he'd try to make everyone have a positive outlook of the situation and not allow it to affect their outlook of life," Crofter said.
Jesse Childress was an Air Force cyber-systems operator based at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora.
Air Force Capt. Andrew Williams described the 29-year-old from Thornton, Colo., as knowledgeable, experienced and respectful. "We're going to miss him incredibly," he said.
Tech Sgt. Alejandro Sanchez, a co-worker, told the AP that Childress was his good friend, and they were on a bowling team together.
"He would help anyone and always was great for our Air Force unit," he said.
Another co-worker, Ashley Wassinger, said Childress "was a great person fun to be with, always positive and laughing."
"Really just an amazing person," she said. "And I am so lucky to have been his friend."
Gordon Cowden loved life and his family, and he had gone to the midnight movie premiere with his two teenage children.
At 51, he was the oldest of the victims killed in the shooting. He lived in Aurora, but was described as a "true Texas gentleman" in a family statement. He loved the outdoors and owned his own business.
"A quick-witted world traveler with a keen sense of humor, he will be remembered for his devotion to his children and for always trying his best to do the right thing, no matter the obstacle," his family said.
His teenage children escaped the shooting unharmed.
His family declined to be interviewed in their request for privacy but expressed appreciation for words of concern offered in the wake of the shooting.
"Our hearts go out to everyone that has been harmed by this senseless tragedy," they said.
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