One day, in 1969, Roger Castonguay was a civilian frustrated with his direction in life. At 6 a.m. the following day, he was on his way to serving in the U.S. Navy.
“You might say my decision to join was spontaneous,” said the Mechanic Falls resident. “After graduation from high school, I was clueless about what I wanted to do. I went to see a Navy recruiter and filled out the necessary forms. The recruiter then asked, 'When do you want to leave for basic training?' I naively responded 'anytime,' and he said, 'Okay, you’re leaving tomorrow, be at this office at 6 a.m.' The next thing I realize, I’m on a bus and heading to the facility to be processed into the Navy.”
Castonguay went on to serve in the Navy for 20 years. He earned the rank of Cryptologic Technician First Class (E-6) where his duties included operating telecommunications equipment that supported the movement of huge volumes of data to operating forces ashore and afloat.
“We provided secure communications that supported our troops. Timely and accurate communication is highly essential to the success of any mission, and I felt that we were truly invaluable in that endeavor,” said Castonguay. “Moreover, I felt that I was doing my part in providing essential information to the users, especially during the Cold War era.”
His tours of duty brought Castonguay to California, Washington, Guam, Japan, and on many afloat commands. It was during his tour in Japan when his military career profoundly influenced his personal life.
“I met my wife, Junko, who is Japanese, while in the service,” said Castonguay. “We were married in Tokyo in 1972 and the marriage certificate is ornately embossed and signed by then Secretary of State William P. Rogers. We notarized our marriage at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.”
The Castonguays went on to have three children: two born in San Francisco and one born in Japan.
Castonguay became very fluent in speaking Japanese, a skill that served him in Maine after his retirement from the service.
“From 1995 to 1999, I was part of a select group of employees at L.L. Bean. There were four native-born Americans and two Japanese citizens who worked for the company,” said Castonguay. “We were called Japan Product Information Specialists and we dispensed product information, either vocally or in writing, to the Japanese shoppers.”
Castonguay refreshes his Japanese language skills in conversation with his wife and by watching NHK, a Japanese television station on local cable.
Castonguay has the highest respect for those who serve in the military.
“The fact that men and women give of themselves every day in the performance of their military duties is undervalued. Much of what our sailors, airmen, and marines do for the protection of our nation is not noticed and rewarded enough,” noted Castonguay. “Many must work long hours with little sleep and in harsh environments. Their sacrifices cannot be unrewarded.”
Castonguay is thankful for Veterans Day, a time to collectively applaud our active duty and retired military personnel.