Jonathan Blunk, 26, was working as a security guard when Young, then a veterinary technician student, screwed up her courage and handed him her phone number.
As their relationship grew over the next 10 months, he became the person she turned to for everything.
"I was able to share my life with him if work was awful or I couldn't decide whether to wear a purple shirt or a red shirt," she said. "If we weren't spending time together, we were on the phone."
They made plans to go to the midnight showing of the latest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," at nearly the last minute Young said she likes midnight premieres, but almost forgot to get tickets.
About 10 minutes into the movie, as Bruce Wayne descended into the Bat Cave, Blunk suddenly shoved her underneath the seat.
"I said, 'Why? Why am I getting down?' He said, 'There's a man in the theater shooting,' " she said.
Blunk, a Navy veteran, guarded her body with his own.
A woman above her yelled that she was shot, and Young felt the woman's blood run down around her. She was struck by what felt like pellets, and heard heavy breathing.
It wasn't until it was all over less than two minutes, she estimated that she realized Blunk was silent and unmoving.
"I think I knew he'd been hit when he stopped talking to me," she said. Worried the gunman would search for survivors to shoot, she waited a few seconds before looking for his phone, then running to get help.
But Blunk was dead, one of 12 people killed and 58 injured in that Aurora, Colo. theater.
Monday, after accused shooter James Holmes, 24, made his first court appearance, Young's father said he was grateful to have his daughter.
"There's no doubt in my mind she would have died without Jon," said Seldon Young.
Blunk had visited Utah a couple of times, said her brother, Heston Young, once to help with another brother's wedding preparations.
"He took orders very well. What my mom said [to do], he did," Heston Young said with a chuckle.
Blunk, who served three tours in the Middle East from 2004 to 2009, was considering re-enlisting.
He also leaves behind an estranged wife, Chantel Blunk, and their 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, who live in Reno.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.