By Anaya Sergeant, junior
TRADITION UNITES US.
In Digital Marketing, students are assigned different content to create each week for Beaverton’s social media accounts. One of the types of posts BHS makes is “Spotlights,” and one week, I volunteered to make content for the Alumni Spotlight on Col. Charles “Chuck” Meadows. I was excited because I had never been given the chance to interview someone, and it was somewhat of a challenge because I wasn’t sure exactly how to find this person.
After going to the office multiple times in attempt to find some sort of way to contact Chuck, I finally got his email. I wasn’t sure what to say at first; I didn’t want to be annoying and bother him with unwanted attention. I knew he had walked in the assembly honoring alumni, but I wasn’t sure if he would want to take the time to go over his high school experience from so long ago. I was definitely wrong.
In my initial email to him I offered to simply email him the questions and he could reply with his responses, but instead he offered to meet me in person. I wasn’t expecting that, and although I had a due date for my week’s content looming near, I agreed. We were set to meet Monday morning at 10 AM in the Student Center.
I had my questions prepped and was ready to leave forecasting early to meet him, which was great since forecasting wasn’t really the highlight of my day. I went to the office and found a man sitting and waiting, which I assumed was my guy. I asked and he said yes, and told me to call him Chuck. We sat on chairs in the student center, I started recording so I could look back at it, and we began.
I started with asking him about his experiences at BHS. He was class of 1957; seems like forever ago. I can’t even imagine this school back then. He explained how he went to Sylvan Elementary, which was a tiny school. He only had 6 other boys in his class one year. That made his jump upward seem huge, and when he finally ended up at BHS years later, the difference was massive. They had around 2,000 kids in school, including him and his twin brother. Chuck didn’t plan on being involved in the school as much as he was, but “it kinda evolves and grows on you” he said. “I enjoyed talking to people and communicating and learning from them.” He was the first Freshman Class President, and got started with football and baseball. His years grew better and better until he was Student Body President his senior year. “Being involved made my years here very helpful, making a lot of friends. That includes the teachers and staff, I was very close to them.”
When I asked him why it was so important to him to be involved with his school, he was persistent with his belief that student activity and athletics kept him busy and taught him to make connections and build communication skills with people. His memories that stood out the most to him all evolve around the student body and the activities BHS would put on.
On the other hand, Chuck acknowledges how hard it is for students to balance everything on their plates. “How do you make arrangements to do that?!’ he asks with a smile on how kids are expected to be at so many places and figure out how to get there. With games and clubs and practices and meetings on top of everyday homework, it’s tough, even back then.
“That activity of going place to place is what really helped. Getting in the groove of things, you had to learn to just do it.”
In his experience, he is grateful for his teachers and coaches. They made a world of a difference in pushing him to do his absolute best. “There were coaches, who I very much respect, who acted almost as surrogates for my brother and I to assist us in academics and pushing forward. We did not come from a wealthy family, and they’re assistance in helping us brought up college and career opportunities that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.” He explained how easy it was to find a teacher or staff member who was willing to help him. “There was a sense that they all had the goal to assist us. Really help assist us do what we had to do.”
After the initial questions about BHS, I asked him about the Marines. “Did you plan on going into the Marines while you were in high school?” I asked.
“The honest answer is no,” he told me. “I got a scholarship to go to Oregon State, and without that I know I couldn’t have gone. The NROTC scholarship has an option to go into the Marines or the Navy, and maybe around my sophomore year, I decided on the Marines. I didn’t go the same route as others, being left with no other options for a career and falling back on the Army. I chose this route; it was a better route.”
“I was commissioned on active duty for 26 years and raised up to be Colonel. Being a part of that brought me almost all around the world, really.” Starting in Virginia, Chuck later gave me a packet of around 70 countries, including all the 50 states, he had been to in his lifetime. My jaw literally dropped, that was unbelievable to me. I still have never been out of the U.S., and this man had seen so many things I had no idea about.
I asked him about the awards he had been given while in combat, and he shyly smiled and explained. I could tell he was proud of those achievements, and the things he had done to get them. “Those are awards that were combat awards from Vietnam, and I was fortunate enough to be able to step up as a leader. I learned to have empathy for people, and to be able to sit down and chat with people. In the Marines, it wasn’t a nice and pleasant chat everyday, as you can imagine, but I could do that because I was comfortable enough to do so.”
“I had a wonderful bunch of men that taught humility, and as a commander, I lost 29 men and almost 200 wounded, which indicated our actual involvement in the war. But that set a huge, huge tone for me, even afterwards. I still wanted to understand these men for all that I could, on another level. Most people think of the Marines as big strong men with guns and tattoos fighting, and at that time in my case it basically was. That’s true, but having empathy and also seeing those horrible situations and so much loss and suffering created a bigger purpose for all of us.”
Finally after retiring, Chuck returned to living in Oregon along with having a beach house at Cannon. If you asked me, he definitely deserves a vacation. He’s now married with three daughters and four grandchildren.
When he came back to Beaverton after all these years, he was somewhat sentimental, reflecting back on things that have changed. New buildings, parking lots turned into buildings, more clubs than ever, revamped gym… I can imagine it felt like a completely new place. But he did tell me that the gym was basically the same, with new bleachers. The trophy case, location of office, theatre, and football field all were in the same places but were “all spruced up.” BHS has physically grown in size, but still felt like the same school he had gone to so many years ago. “The physical part of it has improved, and is much nicer I think. Another thing I’d notice is just from chatting with people. The mix of people is so different and bigger, the breakdown is very positive. I still come back. I walk the same halls. I probably could even show you where my locker is. Might be new, but same kind, same place. That’s special.”
When I decided to wrap up our talk, I planned on asking him what piece of advice he would tell to students today. “I would tell them that your high school years are significantly formative for you guys. You mature in these short four years and turn into young adults. My advice is to be involved, and study. And really, really study. I know kids don’t like to and it may be long and seems to be pointless, but you don’t have the big picture yet. I emphasize academics, and giving thought to what you wanna do. It’s kinda scary, there’s so many opportunities. But you won’t get them unless you do something to show for yourself. How you approach people and the attitude you have to communicate with people is huge. To be able to put your phone aside and have a conversation, I find that a lot of young kids can’t do it. And if they do, they can’t even look at you! How do you hold a conversation if you’re looking all around? You can’t. Some of those skills can be learned in high school and create a good base for yourself.”
Almost 45 minutes later, we were all finished. We shook hands goodbye, and I thanked him for meeting with me. It had gone longer and better than I expected. I had a long recording to go through and type out. But Chuck was such a nice person, and he had values that teachers and parents and adults always shove onto kids. But hearing from him, that he’s glad he actually worked hard during high school, was nice to hear, and it was nice to hear about his stories and how everything turned out. If anything, I’m glad I took the chance to step out of my comfort zone and talk to a stranger who now feels like a friend.