But when Eric McQueary, D.O., took his first tour of duty, his service in the Air National Guard became about something bigger than himself.
EDITOR’S NOTE: It is an honor and privilege for the Lake Sun to showcase the grand stories of lake area veterans each day this week. We thank each veteran for the stories they’ve shared and their service to the United States of America.
It started out as a way to pay for college. And then it was about having adventures. But when Eric McQueary, D.O., took his first tour of duty, his service in the Air National Guard became about something bigger than himself.
“At first, it was just about having fun,” he said. “Then it made me want something more. It was the beginning of being a responsible adult.”
Today, Dr. McQueary is a urologist at Lake Regional Urology — a career he never saw coming when at 17 he signed up for the Air Force. Both of his parents were physicians, but he had no desire to follow in their footsteps. He dropped out of college after just one semester and moved to Alaska to train in Air Force Pararescue.
Pararescue is a special operations force trained to rescue and medically treat downed military personnel. Training includes parachuting, scuba diving, rock climbing and even ice-climbing. The extreme adventure drew Dr. McQueary, who was already a rock climber and who had grown up riding four-wheelers and dirt bikes, “normal outdoor stuff,” he said.
But an injury during training forced Dr. McQueary out of the program. He switched to Air Transportation, which focuses on ensuring that “everything and everyone on military aircraft is transported safely and quickly,” according to AirForce.com. “From food and medical supplies to helicopters and ground vehicles, these professionals are responsible for coordinating the valuable people and supplies we ship around the world.”
Dr. McQueary was 22 years old when he took his first tour. His assignment was Operation Enduring Freedom, Al Udeid Air Force Base, Qatar. His tasks included inspecting aircraft cargo to verify proper documentation, packaging and marking; determining how much and which kind of cargo belonged on various aircraft; and loading and unloading aircraft using specialized equipment, among other work. He spent nearly all of his time on base.
“It taught me long, hard work,” he said of his first tour. “It definitely helped me be more responsible and prepared me for medical school. If it hadn’t been for the military, I wouldn’t have gone into medicine. It gave me the discipline and the drive.” This first tour lasted from January through December 2005. Immediately, Dr. McQueary volunteered for another tour.
“I wanted to experience more,” he said.
He was home for a week or two and gone again — this time serving in Operation Joint Guardian at the KFOR NATO Operations Base in Kosovo. This tour lasted six months.
“I was running the military side of the Kosovo International Airport,” he said. “The wonderful thing with that was because it was through NATO, there were 27 different countries represented there. On a normal day, there might be only a dozen aircraft, but every plane might be a different nationality, which provided plenty of intricacies. I learned a lot seeing the different countries and how they do things, working with people with different upbringings, dealing with language barriers.”
Upon returning home, Dr. McQueary enrolled at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri, where he majored in exercise science. He planned to return to active duty after graduating but met the woman who is now his wife, Kendra, and his plans changed. They were married in 2008. The next year, Dr. McQueary began medical school at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, Missouri. He chose to specialize in urology because it was an area of medicine where he could form long-term relationships with patients while also performing surgeries.
“I also like the oncologic aspect of urology, helping patients through cancer,” he said. “It’s very rewarding being with people during their time of need.”
Dr. McQueary joined Lake Regional in 2018. Now the father of four daughters, he said he’s looking forward to raising his family here — close to his wife’s hometown of Jefferson City and not too far from Kansas City, where he grew up. He’s also looking forward to providing outreach to Fort Leonard Wood, a way for him to keep close to the military and to show his gratitude for the way it changed his life.
“It was the best thing possible for me,” he said. “Seeing the world, seeing the sights, learning responsibility, learning to deal with authority — it really sets you up for real life.”
Learn more about Dr. McQueary at www.lakeregional.com/physicians.