Marine re-enlists at grave of fallen Visalian
The Fresno Bee
VISALIA, Ca. — Standing next to the grave of his fallen comrade, Sgt. Jared Verbeek of Visalia, Marine Sgt. Jon Diehm raised his right hand Saturday and swore to defend the Constitution of the United States for another four years.
With Verbeek's father, Travis, at his side and surrounded by family, friends and his wife, Lindsey, the 23-year-old Diehm recited the oath all U.S. military service members take.
The same oath he had taken five years earlier, when he first enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after growing up in Christian Springs, Va.
The same oath Verbeek lived by, and also died by, while on combat patrol in the Helmand province of Afghanistan near the Pakistan border in June 2011.
As Diehm saluted his re-enlisting officer, Capt. Gregory Kosh, tears rolled down the cheeks of Verbeek's mother, Rosalie, standing in front of her son's grave at Visalia Public Cemetery more than a year after his burial.
Diehm chose Verbeek's final resting place for his re-enlistment ceremony to honor the man he confided in during their military police training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., years before their deployments overseas.
"I chose to do this re-enlisting here with Jared because back in 2008 he was the only person I could talk to about re-enlisting," Diehm said. "And since Jared can't come to where I'm going to do my re-enlistment, I'm going to come to him."
The two were stationed later at Camp Pendleton near San Diego and spent countless hours together, forging a bond only found among servicemen.
"A bond thicker than blood," Diehm described.
Diehm found strength in Verbeek's personality and sense of humor, and eventually gave him the nickname "Verbeekulous."
"He was a guy that I could really rely on. We came through the ranks with each other," Diehm said.
Verbeek even influenced his patrolling commander, Kosh, who was with Verbeek when he was killed.
Kosh said he drew strength from Verbeek's ability always to keep his sense of humor and a smile on his face despite the adversity they faced during deployments.
"He was an honor to serve alongside," Kosh said. "Guys like that really make it all worthwhile."
Verbeek was first selected for deployment to Afghanistan in late 2009 but received a waiver to be with his wife, Vanessa, for the birth of their son Jacob. He was then deployed to Afghanistan in April 2011.
Diehm was deployed to Afghanistan from October 2009 to June 2010 and then to Egypt in 2011. It was during his second deployment when he heard of Verbeek's death.
Diehm, who was among a handful of Marines who came to Visalia in June 2009 for Verbeek's wedding, has kept in contact with his comrade's family.
"His family are real close. They're like my family. It's not just coming home to just friends and saying, 'I'm here.' It's coming home to a family and honoring my brother."
For Travis Verbeek, the honor Diehm bestowed on his son by re-enlisting at his grave was heartwarming.
It reminded the family of their pride in their son, and his sacrifice, even as they continue to grieve his death, Travis Verbeek said.
"At times, the only thing that's difficult is not seeing my son," he said. "But the fact that he's influenced Sgt. Diehm means a lot to me."
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6165 or email@example.com.