BREMERTON — On Thursday, Dec. 22, Left Right Straight organized its first in-person Buddy Check event at Lovecraft Brewing Company in Bremerton.
“(Buddy Check) is a day where we all just kind of go through our friends and our phones and call all of our vet buddies and active duty to make sure they’re doing okay,” said Sean Delaire, founder of Left Right Straight, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of and preventing veteran suicide. “Not everybody speaks out and you never know when a simple phone call … can turn into saving someone’s life.”
Buddy Check days are not new, and were not started by Left Right Straight. But what Delaire decided to do was not just spread the word about reaching out to veterans, but actually invite veterans in the community to come hang out face to face.
“I feel that if people are local, why not just come talk face to face, have a good time with some fellow vets, talk about what’s bothering us, how we can help,” Delaire said.
From open to close (3 to 10 p.m.) at Lovecraft Brewing, veterans were invited to drop by and just hang out. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t calling others, as well, something Delaire said is vitally important.
“Not everybody reaches out,” he explained. “They could be someone you don’t know is having a hard time. Maybe everything looks fine, but they’re just holding back. They may seem happy on social media, but if you were to call them and say, ‘How’s it been?’ It’s really important to reach out and make sure that people know they still matter. We want to be there for people we care about when they need it.”
Though Left Right Straight’s official Buddy Check day was Dec. 22, Delaire said people shouldn’t wait for another before making a simple phone call.
“If you feel you should call one of your buddies and see how they’re doing, (do) … you never know when someone’s having a rough day,” Delaire said. “A simple gesture of a phone call can completely change their day. Don’t wait for a buddy check to check on your buddies.”
That being said, Delaire said Left Right Straight will start promoting Buddy Checks regularly throughout the year. Dec. 22 was just the beginning.
“We decided that with the holidays being a difficult time for a lot of people, it would be a good idea to have one right before Christmas,” he said. “I know that the holidays aren’t always fun and people deal with loneliness and depression, among other things.
“We don’t want to come out of the holidays and find out someone we could’ve reached out to … something happened where we lost another brother or sister.”
Early Dec. 22, Delaire said he was “having a good response” from the people he’d already called.
“It’s been good, too, because I’ve talked to some people I haven’t talked to in months,” Delaire said. “It’s nice to talk to old friends, at the very least.”
Growth of Left Right Straight
In July, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs published a study stating that an average of 20 veterans committed suicide every day in 2014 (the latest year the information was available for). Delaire started Left Right Straight to help combat that.
The name comes from something Delaire and a friend said while they were home from deployment. They’d grab their long boards, head out and someone would yell, “Left, right or straight?” It was a good way to go on a spontaneous adventure. Delaire said that when he got out of the military, he would still do that when he was feeling down. Later, he decided to start the nonprofit organization to help veterans connect and build community with and for each other.
The organization started small, but it’s growing. Now, Left Right Straight is looking for a permanent location in Kitsap County, preferably downtown Bremerton where they have connections to local businesses.
“We want to find a space where we can kind of set up shop and not have to work around another business’s hours and events,” Delaire said.
For now, Left Right Straight is operating their headquarters out of Lovecraft Brewing Company, owned by Tasha and Jesse Wilson.
For more information on Left Right Straight, to reach out for support, upcoming events or how to get involved, visit www.leftrightstraight.org or www.facebook.com/leftrightstraight.
Michelle Beahm is a reporter with the Central Kitsap Reporter and Bremerton Patriot. She can be reached at email@example.com.