In February, Carson Scott was selected to the perfect trip.
The history buff would be flown to Washington, DC, where renowned professors would lecture about World War II. The AP French student would be taken to France, where he could practice the language and embrace the culture he loved. The grandson and son of Marine Corps veterans would walk on the beach sands of Normandy, among the most iconic battlegrounds in U.S. military history, and place a wreath on a fallen hero’s grave.
In March, he feared he lost it all.
Scott, a Francis Parker School junior, is one of 15 students nationwide participating in a National History Day program, “Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom.” The Albert H. Small Student and Teacher Institute trip launches June 18 in Washington’s Ft. Leslie J. McNair before moving to Normandy after several days of classes.
On June 26, alongside Francis Parker history teacher Cherie Redelings, he will place a wreath on the grave of Cpt. Frank Fitch Jr., a California-native U.S. Army officer who was killed on D-Day and earned a Silver Medal.
Scott, who has a 4.77 grade-point average, is researching Fitch while preparing a commemoration, which he will make at Fitch’s American Cemetery grave, honoring how Fitch fought and died for his country as part of the 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.
On March 1, Scott grabbed his left knee in pain during the San Diego Section Div. IV boys soccer semifinals.
The 17-year-old Francis Parker center back collided knees with a Mater Dei player. He underwent therapy and returned to play in the San Diego Section championship against Coronado four days later.
During the evening game, without contact, despite his knee brace, Scott fell to the grass at Cathedral Catholic.
A torn anterior cruciate ligament. A torn meniscus in two places.
Scott said he “finished it off.”
“My first thought when I went down was, ‘Oh man, I won’t be able to play anymore,’” Scott said. “Once I found out that I had a serious injury and was going to require surgery, my first thought was, ‘I’m not going be able to make it on this trip' ... It was definitely a concern.”
All participants are required to be able to stand for 45 minutes and walk at least two miles, according to the institute's website.
To improve his chances, Scott, the school's Academic League captain and magazine editor in chief, had his surgery March 29, or sooner than his doctor would have preferred due to swelling.
About two weeks ago, at a post-operation check-up, Scott learned he was on pace to make the trip. Last week, he began walking without crutches.
Scott earned selection after writing an essay about the personal significance of D-Day. Francis Parker administrators judged all submitted essays, and upon declaring a winner, Redelings and Scott submitted their formal application.
They are the only pair from California making the trip.
All students must research a troop from their home state who is buried at the American Cemetery. Most of the 9,387 men and women laid to rest at the 172.5-acre site in Colleville-sur-Mer were killed in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations, according to its website.
To go to Washington and France made the trip special.
To learn about Fitch's life, to walk to plot J, row 13, grave 23 and pay tribute to a World War II soldier who died on June 6, 1944, makes it personal.
"I’m really excited for this," Scott said. "It's an honor."