Thursday, July 03, 2014
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Saturday, November 30, 2013
By John Blake , CNN
updated 3:11 PM EST, Sat March 9, 2013
(CNN) -- The pilot glanced outside his cockpit and froze. He blinked hard and looked again, hoping it was just a mirage. But his co-pilot stared at the same horrible vision.
"My God, this is a nightmare," the co-pilot said.
"He's going to destroy us," the pilot agreed.
The men were looking at a gray German Messerschmitt fighter hovering just three feet off their wingtip. It was five days before Christmas 1943, and the fighter had closed in on their crippled American B-17 bomber for the kill.
The B-17 pilot, Charles Brown, was a 21-year-old West Virginia farm boy on his first combat mission. His bomber had been shot to pieces by swarming fighters, and his plane was alone in the skies above Germany. Half his crew was
wounded, and the tail gunner was dead, his blood frozen in icicles over the machine guns.
But when Brown and his co-pilot, Spencer "Pinky" Luke, looked at the fighter pilot again, something odd happened. The German didn't pull the trigger. He nodded
at Brown instead. What happened next was one of the most remarkable acts of chivalry recorded during World War II. Years later, Brown would track down his would-be executioner for a reunion that reduced both men to tears.
Living by the code
People love to hear war stories about great generals or crack troops such as Seal Team 6, the Navy unit that killed Osama bin Laden. But there is another side of war that's seldom explored: Why do some soldiers risk their lives to save their enemies and, in some cases, develop a deep bond with them that outlives war?
And are such acts of chivalry obsolete in an age of drone strikes and terrorism?
Those are the kinds of questions Brown's story raises. His encounter with the German fighter pilot is beautifully told in a New York Times best-selling book, "A Higher Call." The book explains how that aerial encounter reverberated in both men's lives for more than 50 years.
"The war left them in turmoil," says Adam Makos, who wrote the book with Larry Alexander. "When they found each other, they found peace."
Their story is extraordinary, but it's not unique. Union and Confederate troops risked their lives to aid one another during the Civil War. British and German troops gathered for post-war reunions; some even vacationed together after World War II. One renowned American general traveled back to Vietnam to meet the man who almost wiped out his battalion, and the two men hugged and prayed together.
What is this bond that surfaces between enemies during and after battle?
It's called the warrior's code, say soldiers and military scholars. It's shaped cultures as diverse as the Vikings, the Samurai, the Romans and Native Americans, says Shannon E. French, author of "Code of the Warrior."
The code is designed to protect the victor, as well as the vanquished, French says.
"People think of the rules of war primarily as a way to protect innocent civilians from being victims of atrocities," she says. "In a much more profound sense, the rules are there to protect the people doing the actual fighting."
The code is designed to prevent soldiers from becoming monsters. Butchering civilians, torturing prisoners, desecrating the enemies' bodies -- are all battlefield behaviors that erode a soldier's humanity, French says.
The code is ancient as civilization itself. In Homer's epic poem, "The Iliad," the Greek hero Achilles breaks the code when his thirst for vengeance leads him to desecrate the body of his slain foe, the Trojan hero Hector.
Most warrior cultures share one belief, French says: "There is something worse than death, and one of those things is to completely lose your humanity."
The code is still needed today, French says. Thousands of U.S. soldiers returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are struggling with post-traumatic
stress disorder. Some have seen, and have done, things that are unfathomable.
A study of Vietnam veterans showed that those who felt as if they had participated in dishonorable behavior during the war or saw the Vietnamese as subhuman experienced more post-traumatic stress disorder, French says.
Drone warfare represents a new threat to soldiers' humanity, French says.
The Pentagon recently announced it would award a new Distinguished Warfare Medal to soldiers who operate drones and launch cyberattacks. The medal would rank above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, two medals earned in combat.
At least 17,000 people have signed an online petition protesting the medal. The petition says awarding medals to soldiers who wage war via remote control was an "injustice" to those who risked their lives in combat.
Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta defended the new medal at a February news conference.
"I've seen firsthand how modern tools, like remotely piloted platforms and cybersystems, have changed the way wars are fought," Panetta says. "And they've given our men and women the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of battle, even from afar."
Still, critics ask, is there any honor in killing an enemy by remote control? French isn't so sure.
"If [I'm] in the field risking and taking a life, there's a sense that I'm putting skin in the game," she says. "I'm taking a risk so it feels more honorable. Someone who kills at a distance -- it can make them doubt. Am I truly honorable?"
The German pilot who took mercy
Revenge, not honor, is what drove 2nd Lt. Franz Stigler to jump into his fighter that chilly December day in 1943.
Stigler wasn't just any fighter pilot. He was an ace. One more kill and he would win The Knight's Cross, German's highest award for valor.
Yet Stigler was driven by something deeper than glory. His older brother, August, was a fellow Luftwaffe pilot who had been killed earlier in the war. American pilots had killed Stigler's comrades and were bombing his country's cities.
Stigler was standing near his fighter on a German airbase when he heard a bomber's engine. Looking up, he saw a B-17 flying so low it looked like it was going to land. As the bomber disappeared behind some trees, Stigler tossed his cigarette aside, saluted a ground crewman and took off in pursuit.
As Stigler's fighter rose to meet the bomber, he decided to attack it from behind. He climbed behind the sputtering bomber, squinted into his gun sight and placed his hand on the trigger. He was about to fire when he hesitated. Stigler was baffled. No one in the bomber fired at him.
He looked closer at the tail gunner. He was still, his white fleece collar soaked with blood. Stigler craned his neck to examine the rest of the bomber. Its skin had been peeled away by shells, its guns knocked out. He could see men huddled inside the plane tending the wounds of other crewmen.
Then he nudged his plane alongside the bomber's wings and locked eyes with the pilot whose eyes were wide with shock and horror. Stigler pressed his hand over the rosary he kept in his flight jacket. He eased his index finger off the
trigger. He couldn't shoot. It would be murder.
Stigler wasn't just motivated by vengeance that day. He also lived by a code. He could trace his family's ancestry to knights in 16th century Europe. He had once studied to be a priest.
A German pilot who spared the enemy, though, risked death in Nazi Germany. If someone reported him, he would be executed.
Yet Stigler could also hear the voice of his commanding officer, who once told him:
"You follow the rules of war for you -- not your enemy. You fight by rules to keep your humanity."
Alone with the crippled bomber, Stigler changed his mission. He nodded at the American pilot and began flying in formation so German anti-aircraft gunners on the ground wouldn't shoot down the slow-moving bomber. (The Luftwaffe had B-17s of its own, shot down and rebuilt for secret missions and training.)
Stigler escorted the bomber over the North Sea and took one last look at the American pilot. Then he saluted him, peeled his fighter away and returned to Germany.
"Good luck," Stigler said to himself. "You're in God's hands."
What creates the bond between enemies?
Stigler was able to recognize the common humanity of the enemy when he locked eyes with Brown. It caused him to take mercy.
That sudden recognition can spring from many sources in battle -- hearing the moans of a wounded enemy; sharing a common language; or opening the wallet of an enemy and seeing pictures of his wife and children.
That respect for the enemy's humanity typically starts at the top, some scholars say. A leader sets the tone, and the troops get the message. A military leader who embodied this approach was one of Germany's greatest World War II commanders, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, also known as the "Desert Fox."
One time, a group of British commandos tried to sneak behind enemy lines and assassinate Rommel in the North African desert. They failed. But Rommel insisted the commandos be buried in the same graveyard as the German soldiers who died defending him, says Steven Pressfield, author of "Killing Rommel."
There were battle zones during World War II where that type of magnanimity was almost impossible. On the Eastern Front, German and Russian soldiers literally hated one another. And in the South Pacific, U.S. Marines and Japanese soldiers took no prisoners.
At times, the terrain can force soldiers to follow the code. The North African desert during World War II was one such place, Pressfield says.
Fortunes turned quickly because so many battles were fought by fast-moving tanks and mobile units.
A German unit that captured British soldiers could end up surrendering to them minutes later because the battle lines were so fluid. Also, the desert sun was so harsh that both sides knew if they left enemy prisoners stranded or mistreated, they would quickly die, Pressfield says.
It was not unusual for German and British doctors to work together while taking care of wounded soldiers from both sides, Pressfield says.
Some British and German soldiers never forgot how their enemy treated them and staged reunions after the war.
"The Germans and the British used to get together for soccer matches," Pressfield says. "It was the Desert Foxes versus the Desert Rats."
These soldiers weren't just engaging in nostalgia. They shared a sense of hardship. They had survived an ordeal that most people could not understand.
"In many ways, a soldier feels more of a bond with the enemy they're fighting than with the countrymen back home," Pressfield says. "The enemy they're fighting is equally risking death."
That bond could even lead to acts of loyalty after the war, says Daniel Rolph, author of "My Brother's Keepers."
Once, when a Union officer mortally wounded a Confederate captain during the Civil War, the Union man sang hymns and prayed with his enemy as the man took his last breaths. Before the captain died, he asked the Union officer to return his sword and revolver to his family -- a request the soldier honored after the war ended, Rolph says.
"I even have an article from The New York Times in 1886 where Union soldiers who were on the pension rolls of the federal government were actually trying to transfer their money toward Confederate soldiers," Rolph says.
These bonds can even form between enemies who do not share a language or a culture.
Harold Moore Jr. was a U.S. Army colonel who led a desperate fight depicted in the 2002 Mel Gibson film,
"We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young. " In 1965, Moore lost 79 of his men fighting against a larger North
Vietnamese force. It was one of the first major battles in the Vietnam War.
In 1993, Moore led some of his soldiers back to Vietnam to meet their former adversaries on the same
battlefield. When they arrived, Moore met the Vietnamese officer who led troops against him, Lt. Gen.
Nguyen Huu An.
An held out his arms and greeted Moore by kissing him on both cheeks. Moore gave him his wristwatch
as a token of friendship.
Moore described in an essay what happened next:
"I invited all to form a circle with arms extended around each other's shoulders and we bowed our heads.
With prayer and tears, we openly shared our painful memories."
An died two years after meeting Moore. Moore traveled to Vietnam to pay his respects to his former
enemy's family. While visiting their home, Moore spotted a familiar object displayed in the viewing case of
An's family shrine: It was his wristwatch.
A reunion of enemies
As he watched the German fighter peel away that December day, 2nd Lt. Charles Brown wasn't thinking of the philosophical connection between enemies. He was thinking of survival.
He flew back to his base in England and landed with barely any fuel left. After his bomber came to a stop, he leaned back in his chair and put a hand over a pocket Bible he kept in his flight jacket. Then he sat in silence.
Brown flew more missions before the war ended. Life moved on. He got married, had two daughters, supervised foreign aid for the U.S. State Department during the Vietnam War and eventually retired to Florida.
Late in life, though, the encounter with the German pilot began to gnaw at him. He started having nightmares, but in his dream there would be no act of mercy. He would awaken just before his bomber crashed.
Brown took on a new mission. He had to find that German pilot. Who was he? Why did he save my life?
He scoured military archives in the U.S. and England. He attended a pilots' reunion and shared his story.
He finally placed an ad in a German newsletter for former Luftwaffe pilots, retelling the story and asking if anyone knew the pilot.
On January 18, 1990, Brown received a letter. He opened it and read:
"Dear Charles, All these years I wondered what happened to the B-17, did she make it or not?"
It was Stigler. He had had left Germany after the war and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1953.
He became a prosperous businessman. Now retired, Stigler told Brown that he would be in Florida come summer and "it sure would be nice to talk about our encounter."
Brown was so excited, though, that he couldn't wait to see Stigler. He called directory assistance for Vancouver and asked whether there was a number for a Franz Stigler. He dialed the number, and Stigler picked up.
"My God, it's you!" Brown shouted as tears ran down his cheeks.
Brown had to do more. He wrote a letter to Stigler in which he said: "To say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU on behalf of my surviving crewmembers and their families appears totally inadequate."
The two pilots would meet again, but this time in the lobby of a Florida hotel.
One of Brown's friends was there to record the summer reunion. Both men looked like retired businessmen: they were plump, sporting neat ties and formal shirts. They talked about their encounter in a light, jovial tone.
The mood then changed. Someone asked Stigler what he thought about Brown. Stigler sighed and his square jaw tightened. He began to fight back tears before he said in heavily accented English:
"I love you, Charlie."
Years later, author Makos says he understands why Stigler experienced such a surge of emotions. Stigler had lost his brother, his friends and his country. He was virtually exiled by his countrymen after the war. There were 28,000 pilots who fought for the German air force. Only 1,200 survived, Makos says.
"The war cost him everything," Makos says.
"Charlie Brown was the only good thing that came out of World War II for Franz. It was the one thing he could be proud of."
The meeting helped Brown as well, says his oldest daughter, Dawn Warner.
Brown and Stigler became pals. They would take fishing trips together. They would fly cross-country to each other homes and take road trips together to share their story at schools and veterans' reunions.
Their wives, Jackie Brown and Hiya Stigler, became friends.
Brown's daughter says her father would worry about Stigler's health and constantly check in on him.
"It wasn't just for show," she says. "They really did feel for each other. They talked about once a week."
As his friendship with Stigler deepened, something else happened to her father, Warner says: "The nightmares went away."
Brown had written a letter of thanks to Stigler, but one day, he showed the extent of his gratitude. He organized a reunion of his surviving crew members, along with their extended families. He invited Stigler as a guest of honor. During the reunion, a video was played showing all the faces of the people that now lived -- children, grandchildren, relatives -- because of Stigler's act of chivalry. Stigler watched the film from his seat of honor.
"Everybody was crying, not just him," Warner says.
Stigler and Brown died within months of each other in 2008. Stigler was 92, and Brown was 87. They had started off as enemies, became friends, and then something more. Makos discovered what that was by accident while spending a night at Brown's house. He was poking through Brown's library when he came across a book on German fighter jets. Stigler had given the book to Brown. Both were country boys who loved to read about planes.
Makos opened the book and saw an inscription Stigler had written to Brown:
In 1940, I lost my only brother as a night fighter. On the 20th of December, 4 days before Christmas, I had the chance to save a B-17 from her destruction, a plane so badly damaged it was a wonder that she was still flying.
The pilot, Charlie Brown, is for me, as precious as my brother was.
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Sunday, April 28, 2013
Sunday, February 03, 2013
Winning by losing?
And not one they you really want to cherish. That day, February 15, 2003, the NCAA Division III baseball team eked out a 5-4 win over Cal State-Monterrey Bay.
Have courage. It's never usually a quick process.
There were 400 years or so of silence between the Old Testament and the New Testament, before God revealed himself.
Monday, January 14, 2013
Here's an opinion piece I wrote for TheFootballJuice.com
Monday, December 10, 2012
The prodding to look for the story beyond the story.
The meaty ideas we shared made me want to make a feast from the so-called cotton candy aisle of modern life - sports.
The photos from those times never left my mind's scrapbook. It's magic imagery, is all but engraved on my heart.
The school bus.
The study hall. Trips; everywhere.
And, I do mean everywhere.
But, mostly just to tell a story, one crafted so careful to share an unintended lesson or just an experience that was so rich you had to drink it in.
I was to busy re-inventing myself to know who I really was. I didn't make contact.
Not even a passing glance. No time to even reflect.
I had poo-pooed the relationship as trivial, insignificant, and well, irrelevant.
Lots of bills. A missing tooth from a playful hockey fight gone bad. A few more chipped from more horse play.
Shattered dreams, new ones.
Lots of experiences and joys too amazing to imagine.
A legendary coach is paradoxical life and his early death. Or, Larry Fitzgerald's quest to lead a life that embraced a calling. His crazy mix of travel and mission work. Is whimsical, but convicted thoughts on charity.
These time things are to difficult to handle for modern thinkers, er dabblers.
Playing a video game before playing catch.
Like walking for pleasure through a rough path in the park compared to speeding to work on a modern highway.
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Racing to immortality? set to "Take" his place?
Baltimore, Md. - I accidentally watched. I was visiting family flipped on the Preakness broadcast. I'm glad she did .
I'm not a horse racing fan. I don't know much. I don't have enough interest, let alone enough money to even care.
The sport of kings, basically requires a fortune of a professional athlete or at least third-world dictator.
Two weeks ago as I prepared my Saturday morning sportscast I never thought to even include the Kentucky Derby. It wasn't until before noon, when I realize was the first Saturday in May.
Of course, that's one of those universal that everyone knows. Just as the first Tuesday in November is election day.
No body called. I got no emails. I don't know that anyone cares.
Here's the bottom-line. We have chance to witness a Triple Crown. Something that's only happened 11 times. Only 32 horses have even come close.
After hanging back for more than three-quarters of the race, I'll Have Another, stepped out to the right and matched Bodiemeister stride-for-stride down the homestretch to edge the would-be champ for the second straight week. Like a highlight of the race two weeks before at Churchill Downs, I'll Take Another erased Bodemeister's six-length lead.
The stunning thing, you never doubted. Like he belonged their, I'll Have Another said, this is my race. Let me take out a bright red-sharpie and signed his name on the deed of ownership.
Sir Barton, Gallant Fox, Omaha, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault, Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed... I'll Take Another?
And all of a sudden, we are interested in racing again.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
The millionaires (the players who also double as their own small-corporations with annual revenues that top the gross national product of third world countries) and the billionaires (the ones who run countries have even more resources, luck and friends in key places) have come to terms.
That means we (the guy who works the third-shift, the swing-shift and the guy who wishes he had shift will once again end up paying the check for the enterprise) will have a football season. Indianapolis will also have its first Super Bowl this February and that's a good thing. It will be an even better thing if I am there.
The NFL is determined to play, and do give them credit for working out the details. I mean, after all a guys got to make his $5 million a year. Some owners are squeaking by with only $50 million per. Could you imagine the audacity of actually expecting a player to work for a living. Maybe Dallas owner Jerry Jones has a bake sale to cover operating experiences or Jim Irsay in Indianapolis hosts a car-wash.
That aside, I don't really begrudge players making lots of money. I'd make it if I could. They do go through a lot to play professional football. I don't have the current data, but I believe the average NFL career is three years. To get a pension from the NFL, something most old-timers don't get, you have to play seven years. You have just a short-time to make your fortune and probably the players will never have that opportunity to earn that much jack ever again.
They, the players, aren't without blame, they are just a little less at fault. They have very little sympathy from me. They have just been able to wrangle a very nice piece of the pie from the owners.
My real issue is the monopoly, the trust, the cartel or whatever term that implies business exclusivity used to describe the NFL. The elite owners in the world's most powerful and most successful sports league, ever.
They've got cash from licensing from the sale of almost every conceivable product or souvenir imaginable. (My favorite is the official NFL team train set you can buy in the Sunday newspaper ads) Like an infinite fountain, only with money, owners have revenues flowing in from every direction: television rights, cable TV rights, satellite program packages, radio broadcast rights, even live updates on your HTC. Let's not forget the basics like ticket sales, personal seat licenses, parking passes,
If you can charge for it, the NFL owners do. They are masters of getting every last dime from we the people.
Hold on. Is it really the owners fault? I mean really. We the fans have blown this game or all our games into something more than a past-time.
Can you blame the owners for wanting more and more money from fans? I mean really, we've been doling it out for years. Far be it for them not to put their hands out to collect it, especially when we are so quick to pay it.
Like the addict buying more drugs after losing yet another job, or unemployed guy using his money to buy lottery tickets. Neither know the, or want to admit they have a problem.
And of course when the training camps open in a few days, including the Colts at Anderson, we'll be there with arms wide open ready to embrace them as if neither has done anything wrong.
It really hasn't. They are just giving us what we say we want with our dollars and our attention.
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Thursday, July 21, 2011
Five decades (and seven presidents) packed full of planning and dreaming are now nothing more than memories to be stored.
Through good times and bad times, recession, and maybe depression depending on who you ask, the Space Shuttle was constant. There was tragedy, twice our nation wept over the loss of a shuttle. Challenger was lost on launch in 1986. Columbia was destroyed on re-entry in 2003.
Now Enterprise (just a test unit), Discovery, Endeavor and soon to be Atlantis will just be giant models for display. Other component parts have been dispatched like a NASA garage sale, an engine going here, a few of the orbiter units going to museums there.
These trophies from our limitless youth, mean little without its symbolism.
The space shuttle was another one of the things we Americans hung out hat on. A button-bursting source of pride that made us, even if just small part of us fling our shoulders back and made us proud to be Americans.
The shuttle outlasted Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, another Bush and Obama.
Disney couldn't have dreamed a plan like this.
There may be better engineered cars in Europe, so the argument goes. There may be better technology from Japan. At the end of the day, in the toughest, must unyielding test of all, manned space travel, no one, but no one can do space exploration like the good ole' USA.
We said we could do it and we did.
It wasn't just that We Did it. It was that were able to do it.
We did it first, we did it best. Some 135 times we shook our first, pointed to the sky like a contemporary Columbus and said we can do it. Then cut through cloudy ceiling feeding the fanciful notion that we American's are a special breed.
And don't let anyone tell you anything else, that's what the space shuttle was all about.
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Saturday, July 09, 2011
I guess history is determined by the person who records it.
That is, whoever that gate keeper is, he has the power to make it important or insignificant.
Fifty years ago one of baseball's greatest records was re-written. It's been broken a couple times since so I suppose its not as newsworthy, but no one has really talked a lot about 61 in 1961 - Roger Maris' feat of breaking Babe Ruth's single-second record of 60 home runs.
For the fanfare and attention that historic campaign attracted, its stunning how little its discussed by the man on the street. I don't float in East Coast circles or get a chance to talk to fans in the Bronx some who still say he belongs in the Hall of Fame, but all in all, I think his feat garners little attention.
Little as in never.
Baseball history has moved on. First Mark McGuire and then later Barry Bonds. But, no one even dares to entertain the discussion about how its a different game today then it was when our parents or grandparents went to the ballpark. And no one ever talks about shorter fences, higher altitudes and lively baseballs and how the game has been diluted by expansion.
Let alone steroids.
That's not just me waxing nostalgic about mythical time when the game was pure or similar Pollyanna nonsense.
During the early 1960s, the Yankees captured five pennants and two World Championships. Mantle and Maris were iconic, but never like they were in 1961. The M&M boys tallied 115 homers, 163 runs scored and 268 runs batted in. BeforeMantle's late September infection, the two were in lock-step waging a friendly battle for the would-be single-season home run mark. Mantle finished with 54 round-trippers.
They were as similar as the day is to night. One loved attention they way you love a visit to the dentist. The other was a quotable as Bartlett's.
Maris, all of 27 years-old, was from North Dakota, and never really got into all the Big Apple offered. He as about as comfortable around the press as white socks are to black wing tips.
His teammate, Mickey Mantle, had an electric smile that would set flashes off for a three mile radius.
Despite his humble Oklahoma roots, Mantle was practically born to be a Yankee.
Maris was a transplant from the west after getting his start in Kansas City, at a time Missouri River was the west.
Never Maris would never hit more than 33 home runs or drive in 100 RBI in a season, 1962. The numbers good enough to win the AL MVP for the second-straight season.
If clothes make the man, Maris best seasons were ithe seven he spent in Yankee pinstrips (1960-66).
He would only play six more seasons, and retire with only 275 career home runs and 850 runs batted in his 12 year career with a .260 batting average.
His numbers are hardly a case for the Hall of Fame, just like Don Larson's perfect game, Johnny Vandermeer's back to back no-no's, but I think we can agree his place in baseball history is secure.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
For twenty years or more he'd work a full-time factory job and farm more than 100 acres. We raised just about everything at one point or another, cattle, sheep, hogs, chickens and even pickles.
Someday, sooner than I can imagine, my daughter will only have memories and a often-misinvested legacy from me. God-willing, I hope Dakota will say the same.
Thursday, April 07, 2011
This article hits home, my little girl turns two in May. I can't imagine missing all successes and joys, and not leaving her a legacy good and bad to remember her goofy, weird, dad by.
King Solomon said life is a but a vapor, comparing to how quickly it passes.
Here' the article -
(REPRINTED FROM CNN)
Dr. Sanjay Gupta shares an intimate conversation with CNN legend Nick Charles about the final fight of his life. Coming soon on "Sanjay Gupta, MD".
Santa Fe, New Mexico (CNN) -- Nick Charles looks into the camera, as he's done thousands of times before. Except he's not calling a boxing match for sports fans around the world.He's talking to an audience of one: his 5-year-old daughter, Giovanna.
Over the last 40 years, Charles has covered every major sporting event, from the Olympics to the Super Bowl to the Kentucky Derby. He's covered some of the most classic boxing matches -- when Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson, when Tyson bit Evander Holyfield's ear, when Roberto Duran quit and told Sugar Ray Leonard, "No mas."
Yet this is the toughest taping he'll ever deliver, a message from beyond the grave. For his little girl.
As Charles stares into the lens, he projects the essence of a fighter -- tough, rugged, still smiling despite the bruises of battle. His wife of 13 years, Cory, holds the camera.
Gone is his patented mop of black hair. Twice voted the sexiest sportscaster in America, Charles has undergone rounds of chemotherapy that darkened the circles under his eyes and "make me look like I'm halfway in the grave."
On August 4, 2009, Charles was told he had incurable bladder cancer. He was given four to six months to live if he opted for no treatment. With treatment, he could expect about 20 months.
"I want the biggest guns you can fire at me," he told the doctors.
He's into his 21st month now. Each day, each hour, each breath is a gift.
He's fought this hard for Giovanna and Cory, to build a foundation for them after he's gone. He knows what it's like to long for a father's love. He only has a dozen or so memories of his own father.
"My little girl needs a good daddy more than anything right now," he says. "This is a gift from God where I need to build these memories for her, so that I'm not a blur."
The family has begun making preparations. They meet with a counselor regularly. When he was diagnosed, Charles told Giovanna he was sick -- that his hair would fall out. This time last year, she looked at him with her big brown eyes and asked: "Are you going to die?"
"Everybody will sometime," he told her, "but we will always be together. But I'm not going anywhere today. I feel great. Now let's go out and play."
Weeks earlier, Charles and his wife sat down to tape the first in a series of birthday videos he's leaving for Giovanna. The camera rolls. Charles sings. In TV terms, he nails it.
Giovanna Charles, the girl daddy loves with all his heart
Because she's cute, because she's smart
Giovanna races around the family's spacious contemporary adobe home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Still wearing the princess shoes from her 5th birthday party the day before, she clicks across the tile floor, squeals of delight bouncing off the high ceilings.
"A gift from God," Charles calls her. "A blessing who came to me late in life."
He has three grown children from two previous marriages. His impending death has brought him closer to them -- including a 39-year-old son who sat with him during chemo sessions.
His focus has been on his youngest girl, keeping a written journal since she was born, and recording the birthday videos after his diagnosis. He only recorded a handful; he was sobbing so much off-camera he could barely hold it together to go past her 11th birthday.
When Charles mentions Giovanna by name, he chokes up. Every few days, he walks into her room and looks in her closet, at the princess outfits and leotards. He pictures her prom dress hanging there years from now, knowing he'll never see her in it.
Travel the worl
Have a love of language and literature
Learn to love your own company so you're not needy
Ask yourself where do you want to be tomorrow? What about in 5 years, 10 years?
What do I require in a relationship? What am I capable of giving?
Enjoy little moments and turn them into ecstasy.
Fasten onto the positives of life