Navy man flies his way back home among family
By Scott Kinard
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Todd Meadows was born into the ranks of a large military family. His grandfather, uncles, father and brother were all members of the United States Navy. It was only fitting that he would follow in their footsteps.
The sole familial link to the aviation wing of the Navy, he lived in four states in as many years while serving his country, from California to Virginia, Illinois to Tennessee. Now, he is back home in the Kanawha Valley, working the red-eye shift during a second year at BB&T.
He was able to go on a lot of trips growing up, and because of the centralized location, not only in West Virginia. However, like many, he was eager to get away from home when he was finally able. “Within two months of high school graduation, I was off [for the Navy],” Meadows said. “I wanted to get away from it all.”
Growing up in South Charleston and Dunbar, he also didn’t realize what he had here until leaving the state. “Homesickness set in early. It was a growing period for me. I learned to appreciate and respect West Virginia and how much I had.”
“It is the personality of the people,” he cites as the biggest difference between his out of state excursions and home. “You can walk almost anywhere in West Virginia and someone will say ‘hello,’” he continued. “You don’t have that same personality and consideration of people elsewhere.” Another contrast was in California where there was a constant need to travel to get to desired destinations.
After he put in his required time, he had the opportunity to continue to serve as a Tomcat mechanic, but chose to leave the Navy and attend college. In the meantime, however, he was offered a position as a lead customer service supervisor with United Airlines, which he took instead. He moved back to Charleston in 1997 to work at Yeager Airport.
Meadows said because of his experience with the Navy, he could have gone anywhere to work at any airline, but he chose the Mountain State. “My family lived here, the affordability, and the cheap cost of living,” were some of the reasons for his move back home. “My $150,000 home here would have cost me $600,000 or more in California.” Also, there was the safety he remembers when he was a kid.
He became a production coordinator for BB&T after leaving United. He thinks West Virginia is more economical for BB&T. “I believe that the people in West Virginia are the reason for BB&T’s success here. [The people] know what they’ve got and don’t want to leave. They’ll work hard for a company,” thus providing a very low turnover.
Charleston and West Virginia’s success does and will be based, he said, on the fact that things are “simpler” here. Meadows added that Charleston is a small city, but it has room for expansion and more to offer without becoming too large. “It has the best of both worlds, both nature and city,” he said.
“West Virginia is ‘just right.’ It’s not too big, and not too small. It is simply a wonderful place to see, live and to raise a family,” the father of two said as to why it’s a great place for others to come live.
And his message to those who have yet to return after leaving their home: “Don’t forget your roots: what you had, where you’re from. Do the math and see if you’re better off where you are,” Meadows said, adding his brother, now a paramedic, is moving back to the state from Montana. His sister-in-law, a native Alaskan, said “things were better” when they used to live in West Virginia.