VISALIA, Calif. -- When Sgt. Jonathan Diehm decided to sign up for another tour with the Marines, he chose to make it official where a fallen comrade and close friend is buried.
In front of a small gathering of Lance Cpl. Jared Verbeek's friends and family on Saturday, Diehm took his re-enlistment oath at Verbeek's grave site.
Verbeek died June 21, 2011, from wounds he suffered after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
He was 22 and left behind a wife and an 18-month-old son.
Diehm, who has served five years in the Marine Corps and re-enlisted for another four, accepted his re-enlistment certificate from Marine Capt. Greg Kosh, Verbeek's platoon commander and the man who was with him when he was killed.
The solemn ceremony was brief and emotional for many of the people gathered on the cold afternoon at the Visalia District Cemetery.
As the two Marines faced each other, right arms raised, some observers wiped away tears.
Newly sworn in, Diehm told the small group of people watching, "This is not about me and my re-enlistment. I could have done this anywhere. It's an honor for me to be here."
Friendship, common goals
Diehm, 23, said he met Verbeek in 2008 when they were assigned to their first duty station where they trained together to become military police officers.
Both of them enlisted soon after graduating from high school in 2007, Verbeek in Visalia and Diehm in Christiansburg, Va.
"He was the only one I could talk to about making a career of the military," said Diehm, who is stationed at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif. He said he and Verbeek talked often about life in the Marines and found they shared the same goals.
"I want to continue my career for the both of us," Diehm said.
Family of Marines
When Diehm asked Kosh to administer the re-enlistment oath, Kosh said he did not hesitate.
He told the observers, "There's a lot to that oath, it symbolizes service to country, the commitment of individual service and service to our fellow brothers in arms. It's why we join."
Andrew MacDonald, a childhood friend of Verbeek's, was the one who spread the word to Verbeek's friends about the ceremony.
MacDonald, a former Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, though not with the two friends, said that each time Diehm has been promoted he has returned to Verbeek's grave site to pay his respects and to visit his family. "It's touching the way these guys reach out to each other," he said.
Kosh, who is stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., said Diehm's choice to take his oath at Verbeek's grave was unique but in keeping with military camraderie.
"I have found that in the Marine Corps, these guys are my brothers," he said.
Verbeek's father, mother and two sisters attended the ceremony and were overcome with emotion from the showing of support. His sister, Ashley, said, "These guys stick by us even when we're at our worst, like during the holidays. They stand with us in our pain."
His sister, Adrienna, said, "Jared left us a huge family."