By Gordon Williams
It’s no coincidence that Chet Roshetko will spend this Veterans Day serving as a board member for the American Red Cross Greater Inland and Northwest Chapter, in Spokane. Chet is a military veteran, having served 27 ½ years in the Air Force. The fact that his chapter’s board traditionally has a member from the military illustrates the close relationship that exists between the Red Cross and the nation’s armed forces.
The Red Cross was founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, a battlefield nurse during the Civil War. A key function of the Red Cross is Service to the Armed Forces (SAF), which provides assistance to service members, veterans and their families. Ties between Chet’s Spokane-based chapter and the military are especially close, with Fairchild Air Force Base being located in Spokane. Fairchild is home to the flying tankers that fuel Air Force jets in mid-air.
Besides his service to the Red Cross, there are two more things about Chet you should know.
For one thing, his first name isn’t Chet at all, but Thomas–Thomas F. Roshetko, to be precise. So how did he become Chet? Picture young voices calling to him across a football field back when he was in second grade. From a distance Roshetko sounds a lot like Chet, so Thomas F. Rochetko became Chet Roshetko–and Chet he has been ever since.
The second thing you should know about Chet is that, like Clara Barton, he is a nurse–a full-fledged registered nurse. He thought about joining the Navy after graduating college, but a friend talked him into joining the Air Force. “I joined as part of the Nurse Corps,” he says. When he retired as a ￼colonel, he was commanding the medical group at Fairchild.
Chet served nine years on the Red Cross chapter board–one of them as board chairman. He then took a year off but rejoined the board this year. So, what role does Chet play with the Red Cross? The answer comes from Ryan Rodin, executive director of the Spokane chapter.
Ryan recalls it was Chet who first recruited him to the Red Cross in 2014. At that time, Ryan was working in community relations in Spokane after serving as an aide to Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers. Ryan liked what he saw about the Red Cross, serving on the board and then becoming executive director of the chapter in 2019.
Asked to describe Chet’s role on the chapter board, Ryan calls him “a great advocate within the military community, a great resource of experience and leadership for more junior board members, and always willing to raise a hand to support the growth of our local chapter.” As a director, Chet’s primary role is to build links between the local community and the Red Cross. However, he has thrown himself into the day-to-day activities of the Red Cross. He has assisted at disaster scenes over the years and helped to rebuild the hospital at Keesler Air Force base in Mississippi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Chet is a frequent donor of blood and plasma at Red Cross blood drives and recently was a donor at the first-ever Red Cross drive aimed at collecting blood specifically to aid victims of sickle cell disease.
He is a vocal champion of the Red Cross Home Fire campaign–the drive to reduce home fire deaths by installing working smoke alarms in homes that lack them. “The Home Fire Campaign is really amazing,” he says. “People can’t believe the Red Cross will come in and install a smoke alarm at no cost. I encourage everyone to get involved in Home Fire.”
Finally, Chet teaches a course about non-profit strategic planning at Whitworth University in Spokane. “I always have the executive director of the chapter talk to the class about how the Red Cross provides service to the community,” he says.
For more about how Chet serves the Red Cross, we turned to Leslie Czernik, a fellow member of the chapter board. She calls him. “a prolific advocate of the Red Cross, helping to recruit new board members and drive the Red Cross mission in our region.”
Leslie says that “Chet proudly wears his Red Cross pin on his lapel when he is in the community. When people ask him about the Red Cross, he proceeds to share his stories on how the Red Cross can have an impact in their lives,” Leslie says.
Time and again, the Red Cross has had an impact on Chet’s life. As a child he saw the Red Cross respond when a neighbor’s house caught fire. When Chet’s sister required open heart surgery, it was the Red Cross that orchestrated the blood collection that saved her life. When a four-year-old son choked on a mouthful of pasta, it was Chet’s Red Cross first aid training that enabled him to do the life-saving Heimlich maneuver
On active military duty, with the Air Force medical service, Chet had frequent contact with the Red Cross. He served all over the world during his 27-plus years of active duty. Wherever he served, there was a strong and valued Red Cross presence. When he served at Fairchild, his chief nurse served on the Red Cross board. “When she was assigned to Afghanistan, that left an opening on the board,” he says. “That’s when I stepped in and became the military member of the board. It has been a marvelous experience.”