When Brock saw his fiancée off to Marine Corps Recruit Training, he made her a promise.
He vowed he’d write her every night.
Not only did he write her 256 Sandboxx letters, but he also wrote her a song titled Marine.
The opening verses detail the heartache he felt watching his fiancée Kena head to Parris Island:
The last time that I saw you, told you everything would be alright.
Held you close in my arms, kissed you one last time, said I’d write you every night.
Through crying and the heartache, a see you later I can’t forget.
Thirteen trying weeks; tears, blood, and sweat.
Marine, Marine, my heart is on an island becoming a Marine.
He simply wanted to express the military couple’s experience in a song. A friend encouraged him to do more than just write the lyrics and strum a few chords, which is how he ended up in a recording studio and on YouTube.
“I like to sing. For me, music is a great way to express your inner feelings,” says the 27-year-old California singer and songwriter. “Music is really powerful.”
Writing Letters and Lyrics
When asked if that’s really how many letters he sent, Brock laughs.
“That’s the right number,” he says.
As a former Army service member, he remembers the importance of receiving letters from home. The day before Kena shipped out he made the letter writing commitment.
“Letters are golden. I remember seeing letters and that was everything,” he says.
The day she left, he started his Sandboxx letter writing.
After waking up, he’d do some self-reflection and started his letter in the morning. Then, throughout his workday, he’d start typing about his day. Letter writing wasn’t always easy given he works on a Southern California rescue team with unpredictable schedules and working hours.
No matter. Brock made a promise and planned to keep it.
“I wanted to fulfill my commitment of writing to her every day and showing her support and my love,” he says. “By doing so, I was able to include her as much as possible in my life.”
Since Sandboxx has a character limit, Brock found himself writing multiple letters in a single day.
“I had more I wanted to say,” he says. “Some days were five-part letters. Some days were one part letters. It just depended.”
He adds, “With Sandboxx you can send the photos which is awesome.”
Kena couldn’t get enough of the Sandboxx letters.
She would tell him, “‘I really love your letters, but I loved the photos.”
His dedication to writing letters stemmed from a rough patch the couple had prior to Kena leaving. They both understood the challenges military life could bring, but were excited to face those together.
In the moments before she had to leave for Parris Island, they both realized how much they wanted to make their relationship work, he says.
“It was like the realization of this process we were going to start and the importance of each other and the need for each other and the level of commitment needed,” he explains.
When he sat down to play a few chords on his guitar at work one day, the whole experience came out through the Marine lyrics. Brock played it for a friend of his, who encouraged him to put it out into the world.
He titled it Marine and recorded the single in a studio in Santa Ana, California.
“I’ve always wanted to record a song,” he says. “My pure intention with this song was it was fun. It expressed how I felt and at the end of the day of the creation of the song I was just going to show Kena.”
He wrote those lyrics with no intention of ever actually recording it.
“This recording and all the extra stuff that happened after was just a bonus,” he says of the song going live. “If other people like it, that’s an amazing bonus. I’ve already received fulfillment from the process.”
While writing it, he was hopeful and planned on seeing Kena 13 weeks later at her graduation. His plane tickets and hotel were purchased and booked. Brock felt more than ready to celebrate her new Marine status.
Unfortunately, he had to cancel his trip.
Kena’s still at Parris Island even though she left in April. A back injury prolonged her stay and she’s now on medical hold.
Different Military Experience Than They Expected
Since Kena left for Parris Island, it’s been an interesting journey, Brock says.
What should have been a 13-week training turned out to be much longer.
A week before the Crucible — the final 54-hour phase of a Marine’s final training— Kena started feeling major back pain. An MRI revealed she had discs in every major portion of her back herniated, causing her to lose feeling in her feet and extreme pain.
“It’s been a gnarly process and not at all how we envisioned it would happen,” Brock says.
Despite that, they’re both staying positive.
“We’ve grown a lot through the process,” he says.
With her training stalled, Kena is now in a hold period while she receives medical treatment. The health issue popped up randomly even though she was fit and healthy prior to boot camp, Brock says, which has added to her frustration.
But it’s nothing a little faith and prayer can’t get them through, Brock believes.
“I’ve grown up with God and Christianity. Same with her. We both know about faith. You hear about living by faith and not knowing the outcome of things. This last six months of going through this process [of getting into the Marines], it’s been more than knowing faith. It’s been about seriously applying it.”
Being apart for so long and unexpectedly has only made them tighter as a couple.
“You think you love someone to the fullest only to find out it [that love] grows daily,” he says.
Focusing on the Future
Even though they’re engaged, Brock and Kena don’t have a wedding date set yet.
The Marine Corps process put a bit of a kink in their wedding plans.
If Kena finishes up with medical in the next couple weeks and discharges from the military, they’ll probably shoot for a fall wedding. If the process takes longer, Brock’s not sure when it might happen.
They’re using a take it as it comes approach, he says.
Even if the Marine Corps experience didn’t turn out how they hoped, it’s not a failed experience, says Brock.
“She gives it her best, but even in her process where other people would see it as failing, she would see it as she did the best she can,” he says of Kena’s positive attitude. “She would take what most would consider a failure and she’s looking at it as a blessing.”
No matter what happens, Brock is proud of “his girl” and her achievements, he says.
“There are a lot of reasons I love her,” he says. “But giving her best and giving her all and being tough when it’s required and having the drive she has is pretty fascinating.”
Advice for Other Couples Struggling Through Basic Training
Now that Kena’s on medical hold, she has access to a phone and can call Brock daily.
Due to the extent of her injury, she may be unable to complete basic training now. Unfortunately, she may be medically discharged, but Brock’s unsure if that will take weeks or months.
He’s anxiously awaiting the phone call that will let him know when he’ll see Kena again.
Since this basic training experience has been unexpected in every way, Brock has some thoughts for other military couples. He believes because he and Kena have put forth their best efforts in communicating it’s made their relationship that much stronger.
“Honesty and communication, those have been key. Those are huge. And not losing sight…do not lose sight of the end result,” he says.
Military life throws curveballs, and some of it is expected, he says, including basic training and deployments. For that, planning ahead with a positive attitude and eyes set on the future can give a couple a lot of hope.
“Deployments are long. Schools are long,” he says. “Don’t lose sight of that person and what you guys can create. You go through ups and downs.”
Military relationships come with challenges that civilian relationships don’t. If you’re married to someone in the military, check out our post on 9 Ways to Make Your Military Marriage Stronger!