Community & CultureSports Partnerships
Jun 28, 2024
5 Minute Read

2024 Blue KC Answering the Call Honoree Mark Puno – month of June

Hero With Many Hats

Mark Puno wears a lot of hats, and all of them fall into the same category: hero.

Puno was in the U.S. Army Reserves in the late 1990s, where he served with a transport unit. His unit was trained to move everything from ammunition to heavy artillery at a moment’s notice. They were trained in extreme conditions, including scorching heat, in case they were deployed to parts of the world where those conditions were common.

After getting out of the Reserves, he has spent the last 25 years working for the The University of Kansas Health System as a nurse in the emergency department. Besides his 40-hour per week duties at the hospital, he’s also one of the leads of the medical assistance program at area sporting events.

And for eight years, he has also served as a “flight nurse,” which meant he flew in a helicopter to sites of crashes and other disasters in eastern Kansas. He finally gave that up recently, but there’s no doubt the term hero could be applied there as well.

That is why Puno is the June recipient of the “Blue KC Answering the Call” award, sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City benefitting The Battle Within on June 28 at The K. The Battle Within is an organization that helps former military personnel and first responders cope with the sometimes-hidden trauma of their careers.

Puno has seen both sides, as a veteran and as a first responder, so he appreciates programs like The Battle Within and what they do for heroes who need the help.

“I really appreciate this program to help out people who need those services,” he said. “It breaks my heart when I see people on the streets with a sign that says, ‘Veteran, please help.’ I wish I could help everybody, or show them resources that are available, because they gave a lot.

“I am very humbled by the award. I was completely surprised.”

He probably shouldn’t be, considering all he’s done.

When he enlisted in the Reserves, he wanted to go through the Army medic program, but there were no openings. So he joined the transport unit with hopes of transferring later. That never happened, but he did say that he was the “official unofficial” medic, which meant he carried the medical bag in his vehicle during training and would help out where needed.

When he got home, he went through the EMT program at Johnson County Community College on the GI Bill. He’s been with The University of Kansas Health System ever since, working in the Emergency Room.

But the pull of sports added to his duties. When The University of Kansas Health System became the official medical provider of the Kansas City Royals in 2011, he asked to be part of the team. He wasn’t accepted immediately, but he joined the team the following spring.

He’s also worked at events at Arrowhead Stadium, the Sprint/T-Mobile Center and with the Kansas City Current. All this is on top of his 40-hour per week gig at the hospital.

“It’s rewarding,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a break from the regular things that we see in the emergency department at the hospital.”

One of the reasons he believes the work is rewarding is he’s working as part of a team, something he learned to appreciate in the Reserves.

“I learned a lot about teamwork and camaraderie,” he said. “I was fortunate that my unit worked well together. We worked well with each other and with the other units, like the Quartermaster unit, which we transported. You have to be able to work together.”

Especially if you’re going to be a hero in so many places.

For more information on the Blue KC Answering the Call program, please click here!

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