Since 2006, the organs of US troops have saved around 140 people in Europe, USA Today reports.
The families of servicemembers who were killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan agreed to donate their loved ones’ hearts, kidneys, lungs, livers and pancreases to patients in Europe.
Wounded troops are transported to an Army medical center in Germany, where those who are brain dead are kept alive on a ventilator long enough to allow their families time to fly overseas for one last goodbye, the paper reports.
It is at that point the military asks about organ donation.
The organs are generally viable for 24 to 36 hours, and there’s not enough time to fly them back to the US, according to the paper.
Most of the organ recipients are German, but troop organs have also saved the lives of patients in other nations, including Belgium, Austria and Croatia.
"Many (families of U.S. servicemembers) believe the donation carries on the legacy of their loved one," says Ami Neiberger-Miller, a spokeswoman for TAPS, a U.S. group that supports grieving military families.