March 11, 2022 | NEWS | By Sabrina Brewer | Photo Courtesy of Peter Zeitz

Peter Zeitz, CC’s Campus Safety Supervisor, discusses growing up in Texas, the challenges of leaving the military, and his love for gardening. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

“I grew up in Texas, really, really small town in Texas. And I joined the service. I joined the Army. Fort Carson was my last duty station. That was December of 2003.

There weren’t very many opportunities. I tried to go to our local college. I tried it for one semester. And that did not work out very well. When your GPA, when there are no numbers on the left side of the decimal, they’re all to the right, it’s time to reevaluate your vision, your goals, and take a good hard look at yourself and say, this may not be the right thing for me right now.

You know, I had to work. There weren’t very many opportunities there either, so I did a lot of work out in the hay fields. So I can get really in depth when I’m talking about hay or stuff like that.

In the summertime, if folks wanted to feed hay to horses, it couldn’t get wet. But you had to get it up pretty quick. Unfortunately, in the part of Texas where I grew up, it rained a lot in the summer. You didn’t have much time between the time it was cut, raked, dried, and bailed to get it under some cover in a barn. So it was an intense time to work. But anyway, I would show up to class, just having left the field and I still had hay probably in my hair and in my ears or whatever. So that was the challenge for me. And I knew at that point I needed to go figure out something else. But there weren’t very many opportunities in the town at that time. So that’s why I enlisted.

Being in that environment, you aren’t exposed to a lot of things that most kids are exposed to in terms of experiences and different types of folks, cultures, races, ethnicities. I mean, it was predominantly a very white community.

There’s garrison, which is when you’re not deployed. And then there’s the field or deployment. I can’t really remember what garrison was like because I don’t think I spent a lot of time in garrison. I think we were deployed so many times. It seems like all the time we were in the field or deployed. Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Kuwait. A lot of NTC, which is National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California to go train as a very large unit. Iraq. A lot of time away from home.

If there’s one thing I learned, and to this day that I keep with me, it’s how important people are. And the value of the wonderful uniqueness that each person brings is so magnificent. I think that becomes more profound when you don’t have anything else, you know, when you don’t have the distractions and the luxuries of what we have today, what we have in garrison. When you take all that stuff away, what you have is a realization that that’s all you have. You have the person to your left, to your right. And you begin to think of them in different ways. And then realize how important you know, the subtleties of conversations. I can’t really pinpoint what that is. Because I haven’t thought about it in such a long time. It’s blowing my mind a little bit. Just rethinking this.

It was 1993. In the fall, first time I ever set foot in Colorado Springs. Amazing. I’ve never really experienced anything like it. The scenery, just the natural beauty of Colorado. And of course, I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know any better to appreciate things and to take time to because it’s part of the military culture. You’re 100 miles an hour, every day all day. And in some weird ways, you kind of live for the moment because most of your time is taken up. When you get free time, you just celebrate. You just live and you don’t worry about things. I kind of missed that part of it. In a lot of ways, it was like a snippet of youth. I think by design it’s set up that way so you don’t have to worry so much about other things, outside factors that could impact your ability to perform your duties.

[Leaving the military] you lose that camaraderie, you lose that feeling of belonging, your place. You have a role, you have a job. When you lose it, you lose a little bit of yourself and maybe in a weird way your identity, what you’ve known yourself to be in the context of that unique dynamic, that team, that platoon, that company.

It was very tough, you kind of feel lonely. You kind of feel like you’re not a part of something anymore. It’s just, there’s a hole. And a lot of folks who get out, I can’t speak for everybody, but at least the folks that I knew, were so anxious to get out and be like, hey, you know, freedom. I don’t have to get up early, I don’t have to really listen to anybody. But when they lose that, you lose the three things I always say myself: purpose, motivation, and direction. Those are the three things that I think are important, in some way, shape, or form, for all of us to have in our lives to some degree. And I kind of lost those things.

I think that’s probably why I left [CC] a couple times. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, where I belonged and stuff like that. I know this now. At the time, I really wasn’t sure what that was. There was a sense of restlessness, you know, every three years you kind of moved. So I think when I got that three year itch, I was like, I don’t know what to do or where to go.

I really wasn’t looking for a full-time job. I was actually scared. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to handle school and anything else. I was really scared, I kind of felt out of place. And I didn’t have the team around me, for that confidence, which is really weird to think about it. But I pushed through and actually did really well, surprisingly. I was a little bit more mature and more focused.

I worked midnights and would get off and go straight to school.

I was trying to get an Associates in History because I really am fascinated with history. By no means an expert at anything, just what I enjoy reading about. I never got that degree because I got stuck on algebra. I had a really hard time with math. That was the only thing I needed to be able to apply for my Associates in History. So I kind of got discouraged and I was like, you know what, I’m just going to get my Associates in General Studies. So I did that.

I really like to plant stuff. I like to grow stuff. We had an opportunity during COVID to really get in the greenhouse and Ian Johnson was really nice to let us go in there and use it. You should have seen the cucumbers. I’ve never grown anything in a greenhouse before. There was stuff everywhere. We couldn’t give stuff away fast enough. Cucumbers, all kinds of vegetables, tomatoes, it was out of control.

I love all of our student staff. And there would be students that I would transport frequently. And after about three or four transports, you get to know them, and you get to talk to them more. They share things with you, not looking forward to this test this Friday, or whatever it is. And I would remember and just say, Hey, how did that test go?

That’s probably the thing that I enjoy most about working in Campus Safety. And you always wonder about students that you’ve formed relationships with over the years. During homecoming, I get kind of excited. I’m like, man, I hope I run into somebody that I remember. I don’t always remember names, but I never forget a face.

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