Wisconsin teen fights PTSD with jars of coins

Stephen Keyes shot himself at his parents' home in Ham Lake, Minn., in 2013. He was 26. Photo: Keeping Vets Alive on GoFundMe.com

There’s nothing quite like the hope provided by people who shovel sand against the tide.

Hayley Orlowski, of Wauwatosa, Wis., is full of hope that she can do something about the number of military veterans who take their own life every day, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jim Stingl writes. Two of her cousins have killed themselves.

So she’s put a jar in each of her school’s 48 homerooms this week. She hopes that each one will be filled with $22, equaling the number of veteran suicides a day in this country.

Haley’s cousin, Stephen Keyes, committed suicide. After a few deployments, including to Afghanistan, the Marine shot himself at his parents’ home in Ham Lake, Minn., in 2013. He was 26. The funny cousin Haley came to love and admire had become more withdrawn, but the help he needed for his PTSD never came.

“He wasn’t very open, which is a problem that many soldiers with PTSD suffer from. They think people might see them as being weak. So they suffer by themselves,” Haley told me as we talked in the classroom of her American public policy teacher, Chris Benes, where this project began as an assignment to investigate a thorny issue.

Haley embodies turning the possibility of positive change into a reality, Benes said.

“This is why we give the assignment. We want our students to be active and engaged citizens and understand the impact one person can have, rather than assuming I’m just a high school kid so what am I supposed to do,” the teacher said.