Meet Mike Stelzel from Virginia
An interview with a Color Bearer member
"I’ve always been a history nut. In 1979 I was stationed in Richmond, VA and immediately fell in love with the battlefields and the ambiance of the countryside. Over the years I watched all that deteriorate."
Mike Stelzel, Color Bearer
American Battlefield Trust: What moved you to first give to our organization?
Mike: I’ve always been a history nut. In 1979 I was stationed in Richmond, VA and immediately fell in love with the battlefields and the ambiance of the countryside. Over the years I watched all that deteriorate. I kept up with the efforts to destroy Brandy Station, Manassas, and a host of other sites. I became a member of the APCWS but had no idea of what else I could do. Being on active duty my funds were limited and so was my free time. After retirement I spent a lot of time traveling to battlefields and other historic sites. I continued to see many disappear and it broke my heart.
In 2006 I traveled to the Camden SC Battlefield and spoke with a gentleman there that was doing some work at the site. He and a couple others were preparing it for the 225th Anniversary of the battle. I was impressed with the state of the land. It was almost completely unmolested. I wanted to keep it that way. I asked him how I could help. His reply was “how much money do you have?” I didn’t have much but I thought maybe I could do some fundraising amongst friends and help with a more sizeable donation than I could make. My business was producing military miniatures. Some of the miniature clubs raised money to support the club and shows by auctioning painted miniatures. I decided to give that a try. I contacted friends and fellow artists and asked if they would help. Not only did they say yes they were very enthusiast about the project. Our goal for the first auction was $3000. We did a little over $5000. With that success we decided to continue the work and the Artist Preservation Group Inc was born.
Since then we’ve donated almost $175,000 to the preservation of land and artifacts. Over $100,000 has gone to the American Battlefield Trust. And we continue to grow.
What do you enjoy most about being a Color Bearer?
Mostly the satisfaction that we’ve been able to contribute at that level. With that said the benefits are great. I’ve only been able to attend on Conference so far but it was outstanding and the Trust did a first rate job of conducting it.
What is your favorite battlefield you’ve visited?
I’m not sure I have a favorite battlefield. A few that stand out are Princeton and Cedar Mountain. Princeton because of its historical importance and Cedar Mountain mostly because it’s intact and the quite countryside lends so much ambience.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Another tough one. My first choice is probably Belleau Woods in France. Guadalcanal, Tarawa, or Iwo Jima also are of interest.
If you could meet any historical figure, who would you choose and why?
George Washington. Like many other famous people he’s a very complicated man.
Anything else you want to share?
I am in absolute awe of what the American Battlefield Trust has been able to accomplish. The foresight and leadership is simply amazing. I can’t image what would have happened to all of this hallowed ground had a few individuals taken the reign and fought so hard to save these sites. Education and interpretation is also important. Reaching out and telling the story will generate future preservationists and keep this history alive and intact. I only wish I could do more.