VISALIA, Calif. - The friend of a fallen Camp Pendleton Marine is speaking out about a promise kept and an emotional journey that led to his friend's gravesite.
When Marine Sgt. Jonathan Diehm decided to sign up for another tour of duty, there was never any question where he would take his re-enlistment oath -- the final resting place of Lance Cpl. Jared Verbeek.
“I wanted to bring the ceremony to him. He was more than just a Marine to me. He was a brother,” said Diehm.
The two met in 2008, when both were training to be military police officers in Missouri. Diehm told 10News that he and his friend shared common goals and a love for the U.S. Marine Corps.
From that point on, there was an unspoken promise when it came to re-enlistment.
“We never had to talk about doing it. It was just going to happen. He was going to come to mine, and I was going to make it to his,” said Diehm.
Verbeek would not get a chance to re-enlist.
In June 2011, while on patrol in Afghanistan, Verbeek died after stepping on an improvised explosive device, leaving behind a wife and baby son.
Soon after, there was a motorcycle ride and tribute in San Diego.
A year and a half later, Verbeek's family gathered last weekend at Verbeek’s gravesite in Visalia, near Fresno -- the site Diehm chose for his re-enlistment.
The man administering the oath was Verbeek's platoon commander from Camp Pendleton.
Making the official announcement was Verbeek's father
“It was very emotional. Just trying to hold back the emotions … but they were able to show. He would have loved it. I was just trying to honor a great guy -- my friend,” said Diehm.
Diehm, who is stationed at a base south of Reno, N.V., says he's been promoted twice. Each time, he's gone back to the gravesite and placed his new rank insignia on his friend's grave.
He said it's a practice he'll continue to do whenever he is promoted.