Former Missouri Rep. Tim Flook arrived at the press conference armed with show and tell — his daughter’s American history book.
By MARY SANCHEZ
The thick, dog-eared volume was tucked under his arm last week, ready for anyone needing a reminder of Latino contributions to the United States.
Flook? Latino? And isn’t he a Republican?
Careful — when it comes to ethnicity, assumption is a foolish path.
Flook’s Kansas-born mother was of Mexican descent. And Flook was among the strongest voices in the Missouri House on matters of immigration, when he served six years representing the Liberty area.
Flook’s 14-year-old daughter first spied the family portrait of sorts in her schoolbook. It was a familiar photo, one passed around family circles for years.
Carlos “Chito” Jimenez is one of four soldiers pictured to highlight Chapter 30, “The Vietnam Era, 1960-1975.”
One soldier is being carried by the others, bandages on his legs unraveling and blowing in the wind. The soldier on the left is Uncle Chito, who died in 2002 in Wichita.
And then, to anyone willing to listen, he retold how his uncle lied about his age at 15 to enlist, initially at the end of World War II. The story wasn’t unusual in that era, when many Mexican-Americans in small Kansas towns saw the military as a better choice than farming or railroad work.
Uncle Chito served in Korea and Vietnam, evacuating injured. He used to tell Flook, “We’d bring these kids in standing up and bring them out laying down.”
The history book is the sort of prop Flook could have used while battling legislation that he thought unfairly targeted immigrant children.
The press conference was to announce two new studies on immigrants in Missouri and Kansas, a project commissioned by the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. The studies look at the economic impact of immigrants.
In Korea, Flook said, Jimenez was among crew that extinguished the flames after baseball legend Ted Williams crash-landed his fighter plane. Williams crawled out of the wreckage, barely injured. When other soldiers realized who he was, they swarmed and he started giving autographs.
But the plane was still in danger of blowing up.
The story goes that Uncle Chito stood on the wing, trying to extinguish flames with a fire hose, nearly turning it on the other soldiers to get them to move farther from the smoldering plane.
The storytelling from the Jimenez/Flook family illustrates how individual lives flesh out the details of historic timelines.
It’s not so much Mexican-American or military history; it’s simply, as the book says, American history.
To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.