GRANITE CITY – Long before Sgt. Steven P. Mennemeyer was in Iraq aiding injured soldiers aboard an Army Blackhawk helicopter, he would point to the helicopters in the sky as a child.
Mennemeyer’s calling was helping people, family and friends said Friday at his funeral Mass at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Granite City. Whether it was through civilian avenues, such as his five years at Abbott EMS Ambulance Co., or his time in Iraq as an Army medic, Mennemeyer had a “servant’s heart,” Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said at the service. Mennemeyer was in a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter when it crashed Aug. 8 into a lake in Rubtbah, Iraq, west of Baghdad, killing him and Sgt. Jeffery S. Brown of Trinity Center, CA. The U.S. Department of Defense said the crash was not the result of hostile fire. The funeral Mass drew hundreds of family, friends and co-workers, plus more than 100 onlookers who lined Pontoon and Johnson roads in Granite City, many of them displaying U.S. flags. Heidi Sellers of New Albany, Ind., a friend of the Mennemeyer family, spoke about Steven Mennemeyer’s early life. He moved to Granite City from Indiana around age 8 and graduated from Granite City High School in 1998. “Though his life was short on earth, in 26 years he touched the lives and hearts of hundreds of people,” she said. “We all know that Steven was a remarkable, awesome young man.” When Mennemeyer, son of Steven S. Mennemeyer of New Albany and Ramona L. Phillips of Granite City, was about 2 years old, he would raise his hand to the sky to point at what he called “hocker-dockers,” Sellers recalled.
“Every time a ‘hocker-docker’ flies over, I thank God for the chance to have known Sgt. Steven Paul Mennemeyer,” Sellers said. Mennemeyer got the chance to work on a helicopter as part of the 82nd Medical Company (Air Ambulance) out of Fort Riley, Kan., after going from a Reserve soldier to active duty. The events of Sept. 11, 2001, prompted Mennemeyer to enlist as an active-duty soldier in 2002. “His mother was more than a little surprised when he said he would go to active duty after 9/11,” Sellers said. He first spent 15 months in Iraq, traveled to 15 countries and returned to Iraq for a second tour of duty. Before his second tour, he spent a few weeks in July on leave, visiting with family here and in Indiana. “He was happier than his family had ever seen him,” Sellers said. Mennemeyer has a young son, Andrew Mennemeyer of Granite City, and a girlfriend, Staff Sgt. Ginny Akins, who was at the funeral and has served in Iraq, also in the 82nd Air Medical Company. Akins was given Mennemeyer’s Bronze Star, one of 13 military honors he earned. The funeral procession included several ambulance companies, patrol cars from Granite City, Madison County and the Illinois State Police, Army officials, 15 Knights of Columbus members and dozens of Patriot Guard motorcycle riders. He was buried with full military honors at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis County.