Southwest Virginia native credits hometown values for success leading FBI, fighting cancer and violent crime

Meador received a Declaration of Valor for his response to the Pentagon during 9/11.

Meador received a Declaration of Valor for his response to the Pentagon during 9/11.

GALAX, Va. – Fighting violent crime, responding to 9/11, and beating cancer twice, Galax-native Stanley Meador is the epitome for perseverance. A trait that now serves him well as the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office in Virginia.

“We don’t give up, we just don’t,” Meador said.

Meador is truly a home-grown success story from southwest Virginia, and credits in-part his upbringing and community support. Just like anyone who has grown up in rural southwest Virginia, Meador will tell you life lessons learned in a small town are invaluable.

“I grew up on a farm. I have calluses on these hands,” Meador said as he held them out to prove it. “Hard work. I think that I grew up spending my summers slinging hay-bales you know and working hard. I think that it also gave me perspective.”

It’s a viewpoint that he’s taken with him throughout his career in law enforcement. The morals he learned from what he calls the “Galax way of life” followed him from Spokane, Washington to Las Vegas to headquarters overseeing legal offices in the Middle East.

“You also grow up with a sense of community. I read an article a long time ago that I still have that said, it was about Galax, Southwest Virginia, and it said people here believe in a simple life, life is simple, and I believe I grew up like that.”

The Galax High School graduate said he is proud of where he’s from. He went to Ferrum College his freshman year, then transferred to Roanoke College to study criminal justice. He had dreams of being an FBI agent.

“In those days I went to the yellow pages, and I found the phone number to the FBI academy, and I cold-called the FBI academy,” Meador said. That call landed him a tour of the academy, changing his life.

“You have to take the initiative and be willing to step out. And sometimes it could be something as simple as picking up the telephone,” Meador said.

While working for the Virginia Department of ABC he responded to the Pentagon on 9/11.

“Knowing the tragic nature of what had just occurred, it was a lot to take in,” Meador said. “For the physical portion of the scene ... it was extremely hot, extremely hot in general because right after the crash occurred jet fuel was still burning, still intensely hot.”

His experience working through the rubble was another turning point.

“For me it just solidified what I wanted to do. I had already applied to the FBI because I wanted to make a larger impact, make a bigger difference and standing on that scene and then working that scene just reinforced for me that I knew I had done the right thing,” Meador said.

Meador received a Declaration of Valor for his response to the Pentagon during 9/11.

Like so many other first responders, working in the extreme conditions of the crash-site made Meador worry for his health.

“A couple weeks after 9/11 I actually filed medical forms documenting the activity of what I had done there and my concern was, given the scene, and what we had worked through, that I had a fear and I just wanted something documented in the event that I got sick,” Meador said.

After joining the FBI, his time spent working the crash site on 9/11 came back to haunt him, just like it did many other first responders at the Pentagon and in New York.

“And so, in November of 2013 I felt a sharp pain in my side, went to the doctor, and 5 days later was in surgery to remove my first tumor which was followed with 6 months of chemo therapy,” Meador said. Meador was diagnosed with stage-three colon cancer. “At the time my daughter was one-and-a-half and I had just received a significant cancer diagnosis and my wife was 7 months pregnant with twins,” Meador said. Surgery and chemo was successful, but the cancer returned three years later.

Meador beat it again, never once stepping away from his job at the FBI.

“I’ll talk to new cancer patients that have received a diagnosis and I’ll get a phone call that’ll ask for my advice and I’ll say ‘you know you can lay down, take a nap when you need to, but get up, don’t stay there,’” Meador said. “You know you’ll hear especially on the cancer side, or in any challenge you may hear ‘oh just do things one day at a time.’ Well, that’s true, but sometimes it’s one hour at a time and sometimes it’s one minute at a time, and for anyone that’s found themselves at the other side of a challenge that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be a full day, sometimes it’s just this next minute that you have to get through.”

He credits his success and perseverance to the love of his family, his work family and his upbringing in southwest Virginia.

“We don’t give up, we just don’t. ...If you look at the FBI and any of the instances, the cases, the things we’ve responded to over the years you know we don’t give up. And we do it and we work together, when we’re working through challenges, we do it as a team. And when I look back at my cancer journey you know I didn’t do it by myself, I did it with the help of my family, I did it with the help of my bureau family as well, and they were there every step of the way,” Meador said.

October was a major milestone for the Meador family, marking five years in remission.

While he lives in the Richmond area today, he said his upbringing in Galax is something that he will always keep with him, and urges others to do the same.

“Being from southwest Virginia will actually help you. It’s something you should be proud of. This is speaking to any student in southwestern Virginia - you should be proud of it. You should use your experience, what you learned growing up to your advantage and to help you as you progress in life,” Meador said.

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