The Missouri Department of the American Legion bestowed honors on a local business and a local veteran during last month’s annual convention in St. Louis.

Buchheit, Inc., based in Biehle, was honored for its work with the Wreaths Across America program with the Employer of Veterans award, while Vietnam veteran and lifelong Perryville resident Jim Eddleman was presented with the Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial.

American Legion Moonier- Reddick Post 133 of Perryville nominated both Buchheit and Eddleman for the honors. 

In his nomination letter, post commander Paul Kohm Jr. called Buchheit “a strong community partner.”

“Buchheit supplies the truck, trailer and driver for the Wreaths Across America program,” Kohm said. “They take on the responsibility of getting the wreaths delivered to our National Veteran cemeteries. They have been a part of this for several years.”

In addition, Kohm wrote, the company provides support in other ways

“Buchheit continues to support veterans by donations, discounts and giveaways year after year,” Kohm wrote. “This past Veterans Day, they gave 50 veterans gift certificates at each of the 8 retail locations. They continue to give support to all our veterans throughout the year.”

Kohm went on to describe the company’s many other efforts, including sponsorship of events throughout the year in support of our veterans, military, law enforcement, EMTs, fire departments and both Boy and Girl Scouts, among others. 

“They are a good community partner, friend and neighbor,” Kohm said. “We are very thankful to have such a great company in Perry County.”

Kohm highlighted Buchheit’s involvement with Wreaths Across America, a program started in 1992 by Maine-based Morrill Worcester, that ensures wreaths are laid on veterans’ headstones in more than 1,200 other cemeteries across America, honoring their lives each December. 

Each year, Buchheit donates trucks and laborers to help transport the wreaths from Maine, and employees volunteer to lay them on gravestones. Many of these employees are veterans themselves.

Justin Pyland, manager of Buchheit in Perryville, presented wreaths to the local American Legion, AMVETS, and VFW. A Wreaths Across America display is available for viewing at all Buchheit locations. 

As for Eddleman, Kohm called him “incredibly generous.”

Eddleman, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, was the principal donor for Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial in Perryville, donating 47 acres of his family land for the site of the memorial, which is highlighted by a full-scale, black granite replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Eddleman describes his donation as the fulfillment of a promise he made to himself decades ago, that if he made it home, he would do something to honor those who didn’t.

“Promise made, promise kept,” Eddleman said last year when the final panel was installed.

A graduate of PHS Class of 1965, Eddleman was active in football, basketball and track. As a soldier, he served in the 199th Light Infantry brigade from 1967-1968 in Vietnam and was assigned to the 3rd Army Unit upon his return home.

After leaving the Army, Eddleman married his wife, Charlene, in 1972, the same year he graduated from Southeast Missouri State with a bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness.

Eddleman, like his father C. C.. “Red” Eddleman, has been a member of The American Legion Post 133 for many years. In 2017, he connected with other veteran supporters in Perryville eager to start a project to honor veterans. By the end of 2017, they had an official board and plans in place for Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial. A year later, those initial plans came to fruition.

“Jim was making good on his promise, donating his third-generation family farm and a substantial amount of funds to the cause,” Kohm said. 

Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial held its official grand opening in May, and additions to the site are still being planned.

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