Kansas City Fire Department paramedic Jonathan Koen credits The Battle Within for helping him become the man he is today.
“It’s given me my life back to be totally honest,” Koen said.
And now, Koen is returning that favor to his fellow first responders. It has become a significant part of his life story.
A Lawrence, Kansas, native, Koen joined the Army after graduating high school.
“When I went on active duty straight out of high school, it was probably the best decision I’ve ever made because it impacted my life in every aspect,” said Koen. “It drove me and gave me all of the opportunities I’ve had.”
While on active duty, Koen took an EMT course and enjoyed it so much that immediately after being released, he joined a reserve unit as a combat medic.
After spending time as an EMT at North Kansas City Hospital, he decided to continue his education and advance to Paramedic, so he could help more people.
“It’s given me the chance to actually help people and put my skills to work,” said Koen. “Being able to be there for them and bring them to the right place where they can get help is very gratifying.”
Koen joined KCFD as a paramedic in 2010. While his primary responsibilities include fielding 911 calls and responding to them, he is also a Field Training Officer (FTO) who trains new hire paramedics during field training.
As much as Koen is passionate about his life calling to help others, he acknowledges his profession isn’t for everyone.
“Look, you have to understand that there are all of these aspects you have to be willing to accept,” said Koen. “If you really want to help people, you have to take the majority of the bad with the minority of the good, and you’re not going to get rich doing it. So, if you really want to do this, you have to come with the understanding of what the job entails. The lifestyle can be very difficult. But if you’re willing to do it, it can be very rewarding, and it’s a very honorable job.”
With the stress and trauma that comes with paramedic work, the mental aspect of Koen’s profession was taking a toll on him. He was introduced to The Battle Within, a non-profit organization that provides a week-long program to help first responders and veterans address their mental health, so they can process and continue to help others effectively.
“It has given me and taught me how to use coping tools,” Koen said. “I sometimes have to dig deep and pull these tools out at work after and during stressful situations. Not only have I been given tools to use, but I have gained a family that is there for me anytime and anywhere.”
Koen now serves as a mentor for The Battle Within, passing along the very thing that was given to him.
“Our main job as mentors is just to listen and to be there when they are going through one of the roughest times of their life and really digging in deep,” said Koen. “Sometimes these people tell you things they’ve never told anyone else their entire lives. Having that privilege and being welcomed into that is unlike anything you can imagine.”
Koen remains firm in his position that seeking help.is a sign of strength, not the other way around.
“Try to not believe in the stigma of mental health and needing help,” said Koen. “It does not show weakness, and I believe it actually demonstrates the whole opposite. Taking care of oneself will not only improve you, but has a resounding effect on family, life and relationships.”
Going forward, Koen would like to see as many people as possible get the help they need.
“My goal is to spread the word about The Battle Within and make sure other people have the opportunity and feel comfortable pursuing it,” said Koen. “Getting that word out is all I really care about. When we talk about saving lives, we mean it. Absolutely, 100 percent.”
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City and the Kansas City Royals are proud to honor Koen as a “Blue KC Hometown Hero” for his longtime service to the Kansas City community. He will be recognized at Kauffman Stadium on Friday, September 9.