ROSEBURG, Ore. -- A petition is asking that Chris Mintz, a hero who put himself between a gunman and his classmates, be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
When Mintz heard gunfire at Oregon's Umpqua Community College on Thursday, his thoughts were not of himself.
Instead, he thought first of protecting others. Then he thought of his 6-year-old son, Tyrik.
Nine people were killed when a gunman opened fire at the College on Thursday. Nine others were injured.
When the shooting broke out, Mintz, 30, a military veteran and a former high school football player in Randleman, North Carolina, tried to save the lives of others.
"Tries to block the door to keep the gunman from coming in," his aunt, Wanda Mintz, told Fox 8 in High Point, North Carolina.
"Gets shot three times," his aunt said. "Hits the floor."
"Looks up at the gunman and says, 'It's my son's birthday today,' " his aunt said.
Still, there was no mercy. The gunman shot Mintz again. It's not yet clear exactly how many more times, but both his legs are broken, said family members who talked to him by phone on his way into surgery.
"He's going to have to learn to walk again," Ariana Earnhardt, his cousin, told Fox 8. "But he walked away with his life, and that's more than so many other people did."
The petition, posted on the White House's official web site on Friday, had already received more than 5,000 signatures by Sunday night.
The White House is known to respond to petitions with 100,000 or more signatures.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the country’s highest civilian honor.
The petition reads:
"I am recommending Mr. Chris Mintz for the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his actions taken on 1 October 2015 during the shootings at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Mr. Mintz, a Veteran, continues to display the values of the United States military by his actions to alert others of the danger and then to endanger himself while delaying the attacker to allow time for others to escape. Mr. Mintz positively displayed the values of loyalty, duty, respect, honor, integrity, personal courage, and self-sacrifice to attempt to save as many of his fellow citizens as possible. I believe that awarding Mr. Mintz the Presidential Medal of Freedom will hold him up as a strong example to the rest of America that one person can make a difference."
Some on social media hailed Mintz's courage and encouraged people to remember him rather than the killer.
"What a example of what it means to be a American Hero," one person said on Twitter.
Despite plea, gunman showed no mercy
Even in the hospital, riddled with bullet wounds, Mintz was thinking of others.
"When I found out he had been transferred to the hospital, I immediately tried calling him," said another cousin, Derek Bourgeois. "His ex-girlfriend was with him."
"When I asked him how he was doing," Bourgeois said, "he immediately said, 'People died,' and lost it crying."
Mintz told his cousin he had been shot five times, but the total number is not entirely clear.
"His ex-girlfriend actually corrected him while he was on the phone with me, telling him he was actually shot seven times," Bourgeois said. "He was so out of it, he didn't even know how many times he had been shot."
Mintz was shot in the back, stomach, hands and legs, Bourgeois said. He is out of surgery and recovering, still smiling, his family told CNN on Friday evening.
Grave as Mintz's injuries are, Bourgeois -- like Mintz' other relatives -- is grateful.
"I'm just so happy that he's OK," Bourgeois said. "It could have been worse."
Earnhardt told CNN's Anderson Cooper that Mintz is "doing very well, considering the circumstances." She described him as a strong-willed person and said she was not surprised at his courage during the shooting.
According to the Army, Mintz served as an infantryman from 2004 to 2007, reaching the rank of specialist (SPC). He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon.
In addition to being a student, Mintz worked at the local YMCA.
A GoFundMe page set up for Mintz by Bourgeois had raised more than $450,000 as of Friday evening.