BREMERTON — When Sean Delaire was in the Marine Corps, he and a friend started a game when home from deployment.
The pair would grab their long boards, head out and someone would yell, “Left, right or straight?”
“When I got out (of the military), I still did it when I was feeling down,” Delaire said. “We all have a rough transition, some worse than others. I would just go out and use that as my way of letting off steam. I would just go out and pick a direction, and go.”
Now, Left Right Straight is the name of Delaire’s organization aimed at helping veterans.
“We try to get veterans together in groups to go do outdoor activities, anything from just meeting up and hanging out to talking, hiking, camping trips … anything to get vets together to build the camaraderie and be active,” Delaire said.
This month, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (www.va.gov) released a study saying: “In 2014, an average of 20 veterans died from suicide each day.”
Twenty suicides a day. Delaire, with Left Right Straight, wants to raise awareness and help end veteran suicide.
According to the Facebook page, “LRS started as a simple way to skate around town and blow off steam. By choosing which direction we would go without knowing the area we would often times get lost but find some of the greatest experiences. After getting out of the military, our CEO/Founder Sean (Delaire) decided to take this same idea of adventure and exploration and create ‘Left Right Straight’ to help other veterans to connect and build a strong community for each other.
“We work to get veterans together to build camaraderie and support for each other while doing things active in the local community and outdoors. From backpacking trips, to racing/riding motorcycles, and everything in between. We all here at LRS love outdoor adventure of some kind. We bring our unique interests and passions into LRS to create an exciting adventure filled organization that is driven to help our fellow veterans.”
Participants in Left Right Straight’s ruck march gather behind the Norm Dicks Government Building for a group photo before heading out on their 5K march July 10 through Bremerton. Photo by Michelle Beahm
One such activity was a ruck march — a 5K walk through Bremerton in which participants were invited to carry ruck packs — held 10 a.m. Sunday, July 10, in Bremerton. In the notice for the march, Left Right Straight said July 10 “is the day we lost a great friend to the suicide epidemic, and ‘Left Right Straight’ became more than a game while skateboarding, but a cause to help fellow veterans.”
Delaire said many local businesses helped sponsor the event.
“Everybody that I talked to, and I told them what we’re about and what it’s about, what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to raise awareness for it, they’ve just been supporting it 100 percent,” Delaire said, “and as you can see, people are backing it. Normally, when you ask someone to come walk with you around town, they’re like, ‘No.’ Unless it’s for ‘Pokemon Go.’ ”
More than 100 people showed up at Lovecraft Brewery Sunday morning for the ruck march, including many veterans, families, dogs and members of Warborn MC, a local motorcycle club that helps support Left Right Straight.
“Myself being a veteran, I thought it was something important to kind of bring that awareness of veteran suicide,” said Nick Rivers, a member of Warborn MC and a Navy veteran. “We lose more veterans at home than we do deployed. The awareness on that is, people just don’t understand how important it is.”
Not everybody at the march was a veteran, and not everyone there had lost friends to the suicide epidemic, but many had.
“I’ve had shipmates in the past that have made those decisions,” said Coast Guard veteran Ariel Mollard. “That’s kind of what brought me out, to bring awareness to it.”
One Army veteran, Anthony, said he also has known people he’s been deployed with who have taken their lives.
“It sounds kind of cliché, maybe not to you, but we hear it all the time: There’s nothing that’s so bad out there that anyone else hasn’t been through,” Anthony said. “We’ve all been through bad break ups, we’ve all been through bad financial times, we’ve all been through … we’ve all experienced bad s–t at any given time.
“It’s not like you’re the only person going through a bad time. If you talk to three different people about whatever it is you’re going through, you’re bound to find that one of those three has gone through or is going through that same problem. And eventually, it’ll end. You don’t need to end it (with suicide).”
Another purpose of the ruck march was to raise awareness of Left Right Straight itself, so local veterans know they have that resource.
“Right now, our biggest focus is building the community,” Delaire said. “We’re really involved in doing community events … that way, people know that it’s an option.”
Coming up, the group will have a booth at a motorcycle show 9 a.m. July 16 at Northwest Harley-Davidson, 8000 Freedom Lane NE, Lacey. They also plan on holding another ruck march in Port Orchard in the near future, though Delaire said things for that and other events are still “in the works.” He’s also trying to arrange veteran group outings to baseball games before the season is over.
Information about upcoming events is available on their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/LeftRightStraight. Their website, www.leftrightstraight.org, is under construction, but Delaire said it’ll be finished soon.
“The biggest thing is, we can’t do this alone,” Delaire said. “As much as we are out there networking and helping our brothers and sisters, without them, we’re just going to be fighting an uphill battle.
“The most important thing is to get the community involved, and for people to show veterans that feel like nobody cares that that’s not true.”