BY TERRYL ASLA
If you bought a glass of “;IGY6“ Scotch ale at Lovecraft’s tasting room, or submitted the winning bid on a painting that was on display at SPARK Commons in Bremerton, you have helped the local nonprofit veterans group, Left Right Straight.
“Left, right or straight?”
Once upon a time, that’s what Marine vet Sean Delaire and his friends said when they went adventuring on their skateboards and needed to make a decision about which way to go.
Today, “Left Right Straight” is the name of the veterans group they started in 2012 and incorporated as a nonprofit last year.
“It started as a way to blow off steam,” Delaire said Sept. 20. “That and the kind of outdoor therapy thing.
“A group of us vets get together and we go on hikes, have vet meet ups … We did a ruck march; that’s where vets wear their military packs and you hike through the city to raise awareness for veteran issues … We helped clean up Lions Park a couple of weeks back.
“The goal is getting vets together to build camaraderie and let them know that whatever they’re going through, they’re not alone.”
At the moment, unpaid staff consists of 28-year-old Delaire, two other Marine vets, one civilian “and lots of volunteers.”
Their main goal: to help prevent veteran suicide.
“About 22 vets a day commit suicide,” Delaire said. “It’s one of the biggest problems and our biggest focus. We had a friend, Steve. He took his life. That’s where this started.”
The dedication on www.leftrightstraight.org, says it all: “Sgt. Steven C. Kessler. On July 6, 2013, we lost a great friend and fellow Marine to suicide. Losing Steve … made us realize how big of a problem suicide truly is within the military community. From his tragic loss sprung LRS. We devoted ourselves to being there for our brothers and sisters. We never want anyone else to receive a phone call telling them that they lost someone they called family.
“You’re not alone. Your brothers and sisters have your six,” is the LRS motto. It’s even on a beer label, ‘;IGY6.’ Which in civilian-speak translates to ‘Depressed? Suicidal? I’ve got your back.”
The semicolon has become a symbol for suicide prevention because an author uses it when he could end a sentence but chooses to go on. “At that point in your life, it doesn’t matter which direction you decide to go, left, right or straight, as long as you go on,” Delaire said.
Besides being a fundraiser, the new “;IGY6” brew is also a educational effort. “We partnered up with Lovecraft [Brewing Company] in Bremerton to come up with a beer to raise awareness among the public and tell vets they’re not alone,” Delaire said.
One dollar of every pour of “;IGY6” at Lovecraft, 275 Fifth St., goes to LRS.
“Our next goal is a coaster with contact information and resources for vets.”
At the moment, Lovecraft also serves as the young group’s informal office and store. So when people buy the beer they can buy the T-shirt.
The group’s goal for next year is to find a permanent office, which in a roundabout way led to an opportunity for civic-minded residents to buy a painting to support the work of LRS.
Serendipitously, Delaire made the acquaintance of Sean Kelley, founder of SPARK Commons, a co-working office space in downtown Bremerton.
“I met Sean randomly, skating downtown with friends,” Delaire said. Later, Kelley told him that local artist Shelley Blain Reimer was going to have an exhibit at SPARK Commons and wanted to donate four of her paintings as an LRS fundraiser. Delaire agreed and Kelley set up the silent auction, which runs to Sept. 30.
There will be a free “meet and greet” reception at SPARK Commons, 258 Fourth St., Bremerton, 6 to 8:30 p.m., Sept. 24. The public can meet the artist, visit with Delaire and other members of the LRS team, and bid in the silent auction. Refreshments will be served and there will be door prizes.
Besides leading LRS, Delaire is majoring in business at Olympic College.
Delaire said of LRS, “It really is a labor of love, a lot of late nights. I make it happen. It’s a balancing act.”
LRS likes to work with other veteran groups. “We have worked with folks in … Texas and California. We do work with an all-vet motorcycle club, ‘Warborn MC.’ We did one of our ruck marches at the VFW in Port Orchard on Bay Street. We’re open to working with anyone who wants to help vets.”