A Romance by Air, Sea, and Land (Tom Latendresse)

Tom Latendresse has what his wife Melinda calls “the Latendresse laugh,” a big, boisterous chuckle that can shake up a room. It’s hard not to appreciate the sound and the man who voices it.

Born in Yakima, Wash., Tom was infatuated with aviation as a child. “I would jump on my bike and ride to the airport,” he recalls. “Mooch rides on planes by pumping gas.” His love of flying never lessened, so after high school he joined the Navy to be a pilot.

There, he remembers doing acrobatics on his first lesson, something that was ordinarily not done. “I felt like I was one with the airplane,” he says, “It was like that with every airplane I ever flew.”

In all, he flew hundreds of combat missions for the US Navy, including four deployments in Vietnam. During one aerial mission over North Vietnam, he was shot down and spent ten months as a POW in the notorious Hoa Lo Prison, sarcastically dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton” by the prisoners. Upon his release at the end of the war, he worked hard to recuperate, so he could keep flying for the Navy.

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