For a self-described World War II geek like Daniel Scharfenberg, of Chanhassen, getting a scholarship to attend the National World War II Museum’s summer program in Normandy, France, is a dream come true.
Scharfenberg is a 2016 Chanhassen High School graduate who just completed his junior year at Bemidji State University where he is a history major. He’s interning at the Carver County Historical Society’s museum in Waconia this summer.
The World War II museum is located in New Orleans, and among the many programs it has, it includes a summer program for students studying World War II. Scharfenburg will spend a day in orientation at the museum July 7, then fly to France where he will tour to see the beaches and battlefields of Normandy. He’ll be in France through July 22. The scholarship’s value is $5,600.
Scharfenberg first learned of the opportunity through an Instagram acquaintance. Scharfenberg has an Instagram account called ww2_daily_photography, devoted to all things about World War II. He has 67.8 thousand followers from all over the world.
“He talked about all the things he got to do on the trip and he posted his photos,” Scharfenberg said. “I asked, ‘How do you apply?’”
Scharfenberg almost immediately got to work, to prepare a résumé and cover letters ready to send.
He submitted the first week of January. When he got the email about his acceptance, his reaction was “hot dog!” He only pays for the plane ticket to New Orleans. His scholarship covers his flight to and from Paris, lodging, food, and the coach buses.
He’s excited to walk along Normandy Beach and visit the battlegrounds and locations about which he has passionately studied and read. He wants to collect a small vial of sand from Normandy Beach to bring back, though he’s unsure if that’s permitted.
Scharfenberg is the son of Steve and Barbara Scharfenberg of Chanhassen. He has a twin brother Max, who is studying art at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, Wisconsin. His older sister Ellen is an art teacher in Hillsboro, Wisconsin.
“This is an amazing opportunity and as a historian he is thrilled!” Barbara Scharfenberg said, by email. “He’s pretty passionate and well-informed.” She jokingly predicts, “He’ll wind up running the tour he’s going on.”
“Seriously ever since he was a little boy he loved history,” Barbara said. “He even went to Civil War camp at The Landing in Shakopee and named his pretend rifle ‘Lorraine.’”
“I’ve always been interested in history, in the military, the army and soldiers,” Scharfenberg said. “It started with the Civil War, then World War II. My grandpa was in World War II ... he didn’t like to talk about it.” instead, the youngster fed his interest with popular movies and television series like “Saving Private Ryan” and “Band of Brothers” and books like the “Eyewitness” series he read as a fifth-grader.
“Books are what really get into topics,” Scharfenberg said. “Films can be inaccurate.”
He prefers books, including autobiographies like Eugene Sledge’s “With the Old Breed,” and “Helmet for My Pillow,” by Robert Leckie, both former World War II marines and historians. He’s also recently read “The Good War,” by Studs Terkel for a college class. The book is accounts from war survivors including the military, civilians, and women. “I’ve learned to be very skeptical of history written by the victors.”
Scharfenberg’s parents and siblings take his history obsession in stride. “They put up with it,” he said. “My grandmother wants all the family photo albums to come to me because I care about family history. Someone’s got to.”
Fortunately, Scharfenberg’s obsession was recognized and encouraged by fellow history geek and one-time Civil War reenactor Dave Carlson, his high school social studies and history teacher who is retiring after this school year.
“Daniel was every teacher’s favorite student,” Carlson said in a recent interview. “After class he would stop and talk. He was always following up after class with lots of questions. The more I got to know him, the more difficult and in-depth his questions would go.
“He’d come up and say ‘Ya know, I did some research,’” Carlson recalled. “He’s totally hungry for history. He asks a lot of ‘What ifs,’ or ‘How about if.’ He even knew of (Union Major General George B.) McClellan’s learning the enemy’s strategy through a message wrapped around three cigars. His knowledge is that in-depth.
“While I can hold my own regarding U.S. history, Dan’s passed me up since his freshman year in college.” Carlson’s proud that Scharfenberg won the World War II scholarship. “This is going to feed the monster for a long time. This scholarship, I think will be the first of many, not in terms of money but education. It’s just something he can add to his bag of tricks.”
“We all go into education with the intent of making a difference,” Carlson mused. “You have hundreds of thousands of students, but you never know if you’ve made an impression on a student. With Daniel, it’s like it’s reaffirmed everything I ever thought about being a teacher.
“To watch that evolution is amazing. Let’s be honest. As a high school teacher, you can only go so far and so deep with these kids. Daniel wants to go deep. And once he’s dug a deep hole, he doesn’t come up, he digs horizontally. Like a dog with a bone.”
At the Autoplex
Track and field
For the family
As of last Friday, Tristan Carpe still didn’t know what to make of the whole thing.
Earlier this year, she was selected to receive a “Recycled Ride,” a refurbished vehicle that is part of a nationwide program that donates these vehicles to U.S. military veterans in need of transportation.
On May 21, Carpe and her family attended the special event at the Chanhassen Autoplex, where she took ownership of a 2016 Toyota Camry. American Family Insurance partnered with LaMettry’s Auto Body to donate the vehicle.
Carpe is a special person, though she wouldn’t ever believe it.
Her U.S. Army service called upon a different type of bravery and courage.
When she wasn’t deployed as a medic with an airborne unit, she served in casualty assistance at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC), Germany. She picked up German during her three years there and to her chagrin, learned her maiden name, Kirchescherz, translates to “church joke.”
“Then I got married, and ended up as a Carpe.”
According to the army’s website, LRMC “is the only forward-stationed medical center for U.S. & Coalition forces, Department of State personnel and repatriated U.S. citizens. LRMC is the largest U.S. hospital outside the United States where it serves as the sole military medical center for more than 205,000 beneficiaries throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa.”
Carpe had trained as a medic, had learned to jump out of airplanes with an 87-pound backpack loaded with medical supplies and, at Landstuhl, initially worked as a common medic. “Then they promoted me,” Carpe said. “Little did I know I did not want that promotion. They told me, ‘You’re going to be working side-by-side with a captain, an officer, a colonel.’ I thought, ‘Sweet. No one ever gets to do that.’”
She reported for duty and was led to her office.
“It was not normal,” Carpe remembered. “It was the morgue.”
Carpe explained her work.
“Depending on what time of night the bus came — the ambulance bus — it landed in Ramstein, a 10-minute drive from us, we’d offload the ambulatory first; I’d walk up to the ones I knew would die, and slapped an ‘expected’sticker on their door. That was really rough. Then I would head back down to the morgue and start off-loading (the dead) and then putting them where I needed to put them so the doctors could do their job. And then, dealing with the family members.”
She also worked with special forces troops.
“All the special forces soldiers that came back, that were still alive, we took care of them and changed everything about them — their socials (security numbers), the names, identities. No one can know where they are, and then it’s ‘Head off to your next mission buddy. Bye bye.’ Tell you what, those guys are some hardcore people.
“There was no preparation for the job,” Carpe said. “But I don’t think I would have wanted any. I did casualty affairs for almost three years.”
Asked how she coped, she simply said, “You just do. I don’t know. I guess I don’t. It’s not upsetting. It’s just what I did, what happened.”
Carpe, 32, grew up in Shakopee and graduated from Shakopee High School in 2005. She described herself as a free spirit. She attended Hennepin Technical College for certified nursing assistant training, then training to become a medical assistant. She was always interested in care giving — her mother was a registered nurse, her aunt is an anesthesiologist.
Carpe worked at a senior care facility, then, on a whim, drove down to the recruiting center.
“I walked in and they said, what do you want to do: I said, ‘I’ll go for medic.’”
So what was a free spirit doing, signing up for the military? Carpe shrugged. “I liked it. It’s black or white. It’s ‘Let’s do our sh*t and let’s get out of here. I know what I’m doing, let’s just get it done.’”
She went to boot camp in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, then went to Fort Sam Houston, Texas for medic training. After reporting to her first duty station in Landstuhl, Germany, she signed up for airborne school and returned to the U.S. for training at Fort Benning.
“It was a miracle I finished airborne school,” Carpe remembered. “The third time I didn’t jump, they kicked me out of the plane. I tumbled and fractured a hip. The scariest thing in my life, like the Tilt-a-Whirl from hell. But I made it and jumped again.”
She was attached to the 101st Airborne Infantry and the 82nd; then promoted to casualty affairs.
Carpe married a fellow soldier while in Germany, and then divorced. She has three children, two boys ages 7 and 8, and a girl, 10. She said she had a traumatic brain injury from one of the tours of duty and became addicted to opioids.
She’s been clean for four years, Carpe said, and lives with her children, her fiance and his two children in Norwood Young America.