Army veteran's long love story ended in an instant on Vegas Strip

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) -- An Army veteran whose wife of 32 years died in his arms during the shooting rampage Sunday night in Las Vegas remained in the city Wednesday, waiting to take her body home.

Tony Burditus, in a Skype interview Wednesday from his hotel room, said he wants the world to know the light Denise Burditus was.

"She always had a smile on her face and she never knew a stranger," he said.

"Every day got better. You can't imagine 32 years and every day getting better, but it did."

Burditus says he didn't immediately recognize the pops he was hearing during Jason Aldean's performance on the final night of the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival as gunfire.

But the instant he realized someone was firing on the crowd, he says he tried to guide Denise to safety.

She died instantly when one of the shots Stephen Paddock fired from a 32nd floor window of the Mandlay Bay Hotel struck her.

Burditus said he knew immediately the wound was fatal.

The couple loved country music and had attended the three-day festival before, Burditus said.

He said this year, they booked their flight and hotel in Vegas in advance of the show, but cut it close when they purchased tickets.

"I bought them real late so we almost missed out," he said.

Denise loved the festival, Tony said, and was beginning to make plans Sunday to attend next year's event.

"We took advantage of every chance we could to get away," he said.

"She kept me going most of the time whether it was for the evening or for the weekend. For the summer with the grandkids we'd spend a month or a month and a half with the grandkids traveling in the RV."

And Burditus says there was nothing his high school sweetheart loved more than family.

The couple has two grown children, four grandchildren and their daughter is expecting a fifth in February.

"Denise had just accompanied her to the ultrasound the Sunday prior," Burditus said.

Tony spent nearly 27 years in the Army stationed everywhere from Savannah, Ga., to Fort Bragg, N.C., to Fort Lewis, Wash., to Okinawa Japan and Yuma, Ariz.

He said despite the constant moves and deployments, there was always one constant for his family, and that was Denise.

"She handled 26 years in the military and never complained once and was the backbone of our family," Burditus said.

"You know, the majority of the time she was the only one there. And she handled, problem-solved everything that came up that I couldn't help her with. She solved them. She did it," he said.

As soon as the Clark County Medical Examiner's Officer releases his wife's body, he'll head home to West Virginia to share his grief with the rest of the family.

He's confident, however, of what she would tell him, the children and the grandchildren.

"I'm sure Denise would probably say live life," he said. "Get out and enjoy it."