Navy veteran sacrificed his life to save another in Aurora

The Associated Press just put out a blast profiling many of the victims of Friday’s massacre in Aurora, CO. One of the first things I noticed in the initial reporting was that two Air Force personnel were accounted for, but one Navy service member was still missing.

I kept hoping for this to be clarified as a misunderstanding. As the commotion died down, such a statement did not come. Reports started trickling in of Navy veteran Jonathan Blunk’s death by Saturday.

From the AP:

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 her swimming classes. 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 Gillof 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.

I suppose he was likely still technically in the Individual Ready Reserve, and that’s why he was initially reported as a missing Navy service member.

Interview with his wife, Chantel Blunk

ePlayer

“He always said, if he was ever going to die, he was wanted to die a hero”

If you’ve got a little bit of money to donate, his wife could use it.

Chantel also told News Four because Jonathan wasn’t currently on active duty the military won’t cover the costs for his funeral or transportation home. The family has an account set up with Wells Fargo to help bring Jonathan home to Reno to be buried with military honors.

If you’d like to help you can donate in the name of Chantel Blunk to Wells Fargo account #8966815063.

About Justin Griffith
  • kennypo65

    I’ve often wondered, does the military make us better people, or simply attract the best of us? I ask this question because the men and women I served with all those years ago were the finest example of humanity that I’ve had the privilege to know.

    • JJ7212

      The military makes us better people usually. I served for 13 years in the Marines. From my perspective, it’s the leadership traits and principles that we are always held accountable for that change us the most. The UCMJ has it’s authority, but socially we hold each other accountable for our actions and character as men and women. Through or experiences and accountability we learn the reality of what being responsible means. I joined the Corps cause I was looking for some good leadership in my life at that time. Ultimately we are war fighters, but it’s the Marine character that is our greatest weapon and the one thing that separates us from the other services. Most Marines take war fighting and character to heart because we really do live as brothers.

      But to be fair, of course, I see many people of quality character and honor coming from all branches of service. I’ve been impressed by every branch.

      I currently teach English at a junior high in central Japan and have no trouble applying the EXACT same leadership traits and principles to all 600 of my students. The only difference is the way I apply myself.

      • JJ7212

        I’ll just add that I fully support having prior service members as teachers. Those leadership characteristics we learn from the military should also be taught to our young students of all ages. If young men are joining the service because they’re looking for leadership, like I was, then we definately need better teachers, coaches, and parenting. No more of this ‘just send the kids to church and everything will be fine’ garbage. Obviously going to church doesn’t produce fine young adults. Education AND leadership go hand in hand to me…

      • Sarah

        If that’s the case how come there are so many rapes of your own servicewomen and coverups and violence between squaddies?

  • Kilian Hekhuis

    but one Navy service member was still missing. (…) I kept hoping for this to be clarified as a misunderstanding. As the commotion died down, such a statement did not come.

    I don’t get this – twelve people died, and it is somehow worse because one of them was in the Navy?

    Also:

    A 6-year-old girl excited about her swimming classes

    What is a 6-year old doing watching a Batman movie??

    • Justin Griffith

      I’m military so I’m sensitive to the subject. People who fight terrorists in foreign countries shouldn’t fight them when they come home to their often shattered families (what do they say about long distance relationships?)…

      What is a 6-year old doing watching a Batman movie??

      What are you doing blaming the victim? I thought it didn’t matter… 12 people died… a 6 year old is somehow worse because?

      They are all equally bad. I have a military audience.

      • Kilian Hekhuis

        If anything, I was blaming her parents/care takers of course. Batman movies are extremely violent, and have a PG-13 rating. To take a 6-year old to batman is bordering on child abuse.

    • bleeb

      1. Most people tend to focus where they feel some kind of connection to a victim.

      2. Yes, the real crime here was that a 6 year old saw the Batman movie.

      • Kilian Hekhuis

        Most people tend to focus where they feel some kind of connection to a victim.

        That focus is of course entirely justified for the remainder of the article. I have nothing against Justin’s call for aid to the widow, even though there may be very similar circumstances for the surviving family members of the civilian casulties. My only complaint is that Justin gives the appearance of caring more about the lives of servicemen than those of civilians (even though I’m really convinced that’s not the case).

        Yes, the real crime here was that a 6 year old saw the Batman movie.

        Batman is PG-13 (and rightfully so). If the girl’s care takers wouldn’t have been so stupid dragging a 6-year old to a PG-13 movie, or if the cinema staff would’ve done their job and prohibited her entering the movie, she’d still be alive. I have kids in that age myself, and yes, I do value their lives over that of adults.

      • http://www.facebook.com/CynicalOtaku Nathaniel Frein

        Batman is PG-13 (and rightfully so). If the girl’s care takers wouldn’t have been so stupid dragging a 6-year old to a PG-13 movie, or if the cinema staff would’ve done their job and prohibited her entering the movie, she’d still be alive. I have kids in that age myself, and yes, I do value their lives over that of adults.

        PG stands for “Parental Guidance”. PG-13′s official definition is “Parent’s strongly cautioned”

        Not “You must be this age or older to be allowed to watch this movie”. You are blaming the parents for exercising their prerogative in what they allow their child to watch (and for the record, I watched Tim Burton’s Batman — also PG-13 — when I was six).

        Because obviously it’s THEIR FAULT that someone decided to shoot up the theater.

      • Kilian Hekhuis

        PG stands for “Parental Guidance”. PG-13′s official definition is “Parent’s strongly cautioned”. Not “You must be this age or older to be allowed to watch this movie”.

        Thanks for clearing that up.

        You are blaming the parents for exercising their prerogative in what they allow their child to watch

        I am. I strongly believe a 6-year old should not be exposed to on-screen gratuitous violence. (Just like I’m blaming fundamentalist parents for brainwashing their kids, even if perfectly legal.)

        Because obviously it’s THEIR FAULT that someone decided to shoot up the theater.

        Again, strawman alert. Don’t go there, please.

      • Nathaniel Frein

        Gratuitous violence? Batman movies? Really?

        Either you need to brush up on what “Gratuitous” means in that context or you’re a troll, full stop.

        This isn’t Starship Troopers or RoboCop or Hot Fuzz. Hell, it’s not even Full Metal Jacket and the violence in FMJ was anything BUT gratuitous (although it was extreme). Even saying that the Batman franchise is “extremely” violent is disingenuous. They’re, at the very core, detective movies. Lots of sleuthing around interspersed with brief flurries of action.

        Taking a child to a PG-13 movie (Note the complete LACK of “restricted” anywhere in the definition) is nowhere near the same as brainwashing them into fundamental religion.

        Making the decision that the child is ready to see what’s going on the screen, deciding that you’re ready as a parent to discuss how the child feels about the story and the actions taken in the story, is exactly the kind of judgement calls parents are supposed to make.

        A six year old child is dead because a terrorist shot up the theater. No one, NO ONE, else is at fault here.

        And yes, James Holmes is a terrorist.

      • Kilian Hekhuis

        either you need to brush up on what “Gratuitous” means

        That, apparently. I’m a non-native English speaker. Bare with me please. “Extreme violence” then. Although given what I said, I don’t think 6-year olds should be presented with any type of violence, gratuitous, extreme or otherwise.

        Even saying that the Batman franchise is “extremely” violent is disingenuous.

        I really wonder whether you are even aware of the strawman fallacy. You use it a lot.

        Taking a child to a PG-13 movie (Note the complete LACK of “restricted” anywhere in the definition) is nowhere near the same as brainwashing them into fundamental religion.

        True, that comparison was a bit off.

        Making the decision that the child is ready to see what’s going on the screen, deciding that you’re ready as a parent to discuss how the child feels about the story and the actions taken in the story, is exactly the kind of judgement calls parents are supposed to make.

        I agree. But I disagree with any parent that thinks their 6-year old is ready to see a Batman movie.

        A six year old child is dead because a terrorist shot up the theater. No one, NO ONE, else is at fault here.

        I already called this the strawman it is.

        And yes, James Holmes is a terrorist.

        For someone apparently caring about the correct use of terms, you seem to have little grasp of the typical definition of “terrorist”. As Merriam Webster puts it, terrorism is “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion”. That fits, say, Al Qaeda, but it definitely does not fit lone gunmen shooting down a bunch of people once, without hope of getting away with it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/tim.rohal timrohal

        12 killed by a heavily-armed guy in a dark theater and the argument is about the 6-year-old girl who was brought there by her parent(s)?

        …what the fuck…

      • Kilian Hekhuis

        and the argument is about the 6-year-old girl who was brought there by her parent(s)?

        So your basic gist is that because of the severity of this tragedy, we’re not allowed to side-step the discussion to discuss something related?

  • http://www.facebook.com/CynicalOtaku Nathaniel Frein

    I don’t get this – twelve people died, and it is somehow worse because one of them was in the Navy?

    JG hasn’t said that this is “worse” because one of the victims was in the Navy. No where in his writing, or in the quoted articles, does anyone say “Oh, this shit is serious now cuz a Navy guy died”.

    This is a blog about the military. The fact that this blog is airing a piece that is clearing up the news regarding the military veteran killed in this tragedy is perfectly reasonable.

    What disappoints me about the article (and is in no way Justin’s fault) is that the military isn’t willing to foot the bill to transport him and bury him. I will definitely be sending what I can to his widow’s fund when my next paycheck comes, but I think some pressure on the Navy to do their part might be appropriate. The man died to save a fellow citizen from what amounts to a terrorist attack. If that isn’t an honor to his military service, I don’t know what is…

    • Kilian Hekhuis

      No where in his writing, or in the quoted articles, does anyone say “Oh, this shit is serious now cuz a Navy guy died”.

      True, but no need to pull a strawman there. The very sentence “I kept hoping for this to be clarified as a misunderstanding” indicates to me that for Justin, the dead person not being a Navy serviceman (but a civilian) was a better outcome for him than the outcome it has gotton (the dead person indeed being a Navy serviceman). Even if you are in the military, and thus focussed on things military, it shouldn’t matter what someone dead’s occupation is.

      This quote from Justin also echoes this wrongly:

      People who fight terrorists in foreign countries shouldn’t fight them when they come home

      Though also a bit of a strawman (it wasn’t a terrorist, and Blunk wasn’t fighting him), I can’t help reading “…but it’s ok for civilians to face terrorists when they’re home”. I’m really convinced this is not actually what he means, but as a civilian reader, I’m telling him (and you) that’s how it comes across (at least to me, mileage may vary for other civilians).

      • http://www.facebook.com/tim.rohal timrohal

        You’re going pretty far out of your way to pick an argument. The deaths are all tragic, yes. I don’t think anyone here is trying to demean the loss of non-military life. However, for many military folks, there’s an extra tragic twist when a thrice-deployed veteran is senselessly slain on home soil. I have personally felt this when a platoon-mate died in a car accident along with his fiance while he was home on leave during our Iraq deployment.

      • Kilian Hekhuis

        However, for many military folks, there’s an extra tragic twist when a thrice-deployed veteran is senselessly slain on home soil.

        I’m sorry, but I just can’t see that. I really can’t see how that’s somehow “extra tragic”. Every senseless human loss is tragic, whether it’s military-off-duty or civilian.

  • ImaginesABeach

    My husband is a veteran who is currently a civilian employee of one of the armed forces. His reaction (and apparently that of many of his co-workers) was to be thankful that the shooter was not a vet.

    Also, I note that 3 of the 12 killed were active duty military or veterans.


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