U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) released, May 27, the May edition of Answering the Call: Maine’s Veteran Voices, the monthly series in which he shares the stories of the lives, service, and sacrifices of Maine’s veteran community.
In the seventh interview of the series, conducted in partnership with the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, Senator King spoke with Belfast resident Joy Asuncion, who spent 20 years in the Navy, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for Honor Flight Maine and as the Maine Ambassador for the National Military Women’s Memorial. During the interview, Asuncion and Senator King discussed her experience breaking barriers as a woman in the Navy, cybersecurity efforts in the Cold War, and how we can better support Maine veterans when they retire from active duty.
“It was an honor to speak with Belfast’s Joy Asuncion and hear first-hand about her service to our country in this episode of Answering the Call: Maine’s Veteran Voices.” said King, in a news release. “Over the course of her 20 years in the Navy, Joy epitomized selfless sacrifice and broke barriers for her fellow servicemen and women. After serving in the Navy, Joy has continued her dedication to our country by working to ensure Maine’s veterans – especially women veterans – have access to the resources and support they deserve. From her time in the Navy to her work with Honor Flight, I am truly grateful for Joy’s lifetime of dedication, and I am grateful she could join me.”
Joy Asuncion grew up in Belfast with her five siblings, mom, and dad. Asuncion’s father was an Army veteran who served in World War II, alongside her uncle, and her mother who was a Rosie the Riveter. Asuncion had seen what it meant for her father to serve and wanted to serve her country in the same way, so she enlisted in the Navy in 1974 and went to basic training in Orlando, Florida after graduating.
After completing the experience of basic training as a woman in 1974, Asuncion was stationed at Indian Head, Maryland, at the Naval Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) School focused on training where she was the only enlisted female stationed on the base. She served here for 2 years, primarily assisting the training director - making sure grades were kept and ensuring all materials were taken care of. From here, Asuncion was bounced around from place to place trying to find the best spot for her. After trying multiple specialties at the Pentagon and Pax River, Maryland, she decided she was best at computer technology and was soon sent to Pearl Harbor to assist the Pacific Fleet on their computer operations.
At Pearl Harbor, Asuncion worked with the Data Processing Service Center Pacific Fleet on the technology side that tracked casualties and wounded soldiers after the Vietnam War. After rising through the ranks to Senior Chief E8, she continued to work on computer security and to protect their systems against the foreign enemies. Asuncion began her last tour at the Pacific Fleet Headquarters where she oversaw 125 Navy Sailors as the Center’s Leading Senior Chief. In this role, she managed technology security at the battle command station for all of Pacific Fleet Headquarters.
Asuncion retired from active duty in 1994 after 20 years of service and spent one year in a contract position for the Navy before returning to Maine in 1996. Since retiring, she has continued her service to veterans and the military community. Asuncion is on the Board of Directors for Honor Flight Maine and she is also the Maine Ambassador for the National Military Women’s Memorial located at the ceremonial entrance to Arlington National Cemetery.
The Veterans History Project is an effort by the Library of Congress to collect, preserve and distribute the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. The interviews and primary documents from the project are then used by researchers, historians, students, and filmmakers across the country. Senator King joins many other members of Congress who’ve participated in the project.