In death, U.S. Army veteran still giving back

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- U.S. Army Veteran Michael Russell not only wanted to serve his country, but save people in his community. Now, after his death, this veteran is still giving back.

Russell donated his organs and tissue, after he died. His mother talked about the healing process of losing her son, and why by giving back, her family is celebrating not only her son's service to his country, but his gift of life to others, after his death.

Russell's mother, Stephanie Russell, calls her son "Mickey".

"My son was my heart," said Stephanie. "Me and my son did everything together."

Russell passed away from a blood clot in the summer of 2017. Stephanie said no one saw it coming, but what she knew was that her son would want to continue to make an impact.

"He just said he always wanted to serve after his death," said Stephanie.

Through Russell's donation, he helped restore two people's eyesight, and his tissue helped countless people heal.

"Organ donation gets so much highlight and attention, but we want people to realize that being a tissue donor can save so many people," said Nico Santos with the Donor Network of Arizona.

This weekend, NASCAR driver Joey Gase will race with Russell's picture on his bumper at ISM Raceway. Donate Life Arizona is a sponsor of Gase.

"When they see that picture, they're going to say, 'why's that picture on there?' And they're going to look into it and find out why," said Gase.

Veterans with the Catholic Charities MANA House, a transitional living center for homeless vets, also came out to sign their names on Gase's car.

"The meaning is so personal for many of us," said Wendy Owens with Catholic Charities MANA House.

Among the countless message on the car is one from Russell's mother, which reads, "I'm so proud of you. I'll honor you until I die."

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