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NEWS | March 19, 2024

ARNG Soldiers from 9 states, territories conduct funeral honors training in Virginia Beach

By A.J. Coyne | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

The Virginia Army National Guard Funeral Honors Program hosted 11 Army National Guard Soldiers from nine states and territories for a level 2 funeral honors training course Feb. 26 to March 8, 2024, at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Soldiers from Virginia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Wisconsin participated in the two week-long training, which certifies instructors to teach fellow Soldiers the skills, procedures and standards for providing final respects to military veterans.

“It’s hard physically and mentally,” said Staff Sgt. Antonio Alexander, a Virginia National Guard Soldier assigned to the Norfolk- based Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “It’s much tougher than level 1. They challenge us to be better personally and professionally and it’s a great experience.”

There are three levels of training in the military funeral honors program. Level 1 is the foundation and teaches Soldiers how to perform the services. Virginia conducts a 40-hour, Level 1 training course several times a year.

Level 2 covers instructing and how to become more of a trainer.

Level 3 is used as a recertification and helps ensure each state is maintaining the national standard.

“Level 2 really refines our knowledge of what we learned in level 1,” explained Pfc. Daven Melvin, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment, Illinois Army National Guard.

Soldiers perform military funeral honors in a variety of duty statuses. Some are traditional M-da Soldiers. Some are on temporary, Active Duty Operational Support, orders.
After basic training, Melvin tried find a full-time job that was meaningful.

“I had no idea what I was going to do,” he said. “I’m glad I came across this. I think it’s great for newer Soldiers because of how unique and meaningful the mission is.”

Alexander already completed the level 2 course. However after a deployment to Africa, he returned to Virginia and needed to go through the level 2 course again to become recertified.
“It’s an honorable profession,” he said. “I like the service that we provide. I feel like you really have to show out for your fallen comrades.”

The mental and physical discipline required for the course prepares you for the mission, which “is not something everyone can do,” explained Spc. Angel Rodriguez, a Puerto Rico National Guard Soldier assigned to the 105th Quartermaster Company, 3678th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 191st Regional Support Group. “It’s a unique job and it’s very honorable to give back to people who’ve given to the country.”

“Besides it being honorable, we’re the last Soldiers the family sees before we bury their loved ones,” said Spc. Karla Colindres, assigned to 1st Squadron, 230th Cavalry Regiment, Tennessee Army National Guard. “It’s such an amazing thing to go out there and do the best we can to honor their loved one.”
Begun in January 2007, the Virginia National Guard Military Funeral Honors Program is composed of four teams located throughout the state which provide funeral details, not just to National Guard Soldiers, but to veterans of the active Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard.

They have performed more than 26,000 funeral services throughout the Commonwealth and average 200 services each month.

For more information on the Virginia National Guard Funeral Honors Program please visit or call 434-480-2599.

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