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Father of 'Semper Fit' retires

Lance Cpl. Antwaun Jefferson
Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2011 ll:22 am

Col. Dan Choike - Chris D'Orazio - retires

Col. Dan Choike, base commander, presents Chris D'Orazio, head of recreation, a challenge coin during D'Orazio's retirement ceremony in the Main Ballroom at the Clubs of Quantico on Dec. 5. D' Orazio has changed healthy lifestyle opportunities, for the better, through the related sports, health, fitness and recreation activities for the Marines and their families.

Every once in a while a person comes along who takes an idea and turns it into an evolutionary work of art.

In this case, that something was Semper Fit and that someone is the head of recreation, Chris D'Orazio, who has changed healthy lifestyle opportunities, for the better, through the related sports, health, fitness and recreation activities for the Marines and their families across the Corps.

After nearly 36 years of service as a Marine officer and a civilian, D'Orazio has decided to take a well deserved rest after his retirement ceremony in the Main Ballroom at the Clubs of Quantico on Dec. 5.

Since D'Orazio started working as a civilian in Special Services in 1982, he has played a significant role in shaping recreational and fitness opportunities aboard MCB Quantico. He has helped expand Lunga Park to include events for DOD employees and families, and expanded the Marina from seven boat slips to more than 100.

But nothing, however, compares to his baby, Semper Fit.

In 1985, D'Orazio, while sitting by his window, picked up an article about the life expectancy of retired Marines, whether officer or enlisted. What he saw was not a pretty picture.

"Marines, especially back then, played hard, worked hard, drank hard and smoked hard" said D'Orazio. "I looked out the window and saw a young Marine put out a cigarette, finish a can of beer, then walk back inside the building."

"I look down and thought to myself, based on this article, this guy's going to live less than five years after he retires," D'Orazio said. "After a career and everything they've worked for, they are probably going to die that soon; that's terrible. That was pretty much the genesis of the word 'Semper Fit."

D'Orazio and his fitness director, together, started working on a program that improves people's lives through all types of opportunities for healthy life styles.

For a long time, because of D'Orazio, Quantico was one of only two bases in the Marine Corps that had a dietitian. He feels the body is only as good as what a person puts into it.

"The body is like a high performance car," D'Orazio said. "If you put bad fuel into it, it will eventually break down on you."

"He's very dedicated to the Marines and fitness," said Elizabeth Kranz, head of business recreation. "have worked directly for Mr. D'Orazio since 1984, and he takes his job, and what he believes in, very seriously."

Gary Gutshall, base commercial sponsorship coordinator, implies that, plenty of bosses just oversee, demand and only care about the outcome of the product but D'Orazio generally cares for, and takes care of, his employees and co-workers.

"Chris has very high standards but is very supportive of the people he works with," said Gutshall. "He works hard and goes that extra mile for his employees. I know many situations where an employee has been having a bad day or been put in a bad situation and Chris has always been very quick to offer advice or go out of his way to help them however he could."

Not only does he care about his team, he has the gift of bringing out the best in people. They love him for it and would follow him to the ends of the earth.

"He motivates me when I need to be motivated" said Lon Martin, civilian Marine for workforce development and awards assistant. "He's exceptionally bright, and one of the best bosses I have ever had during active duty and retired life. He is somebody that, if he were to call me from overseas and said that he wanted me to work with him over there, my wife wouldn't be too happy about moving, but I would go."

D'Orazio explains that when he hires a person he looks at their heart, not their brains.

"People can have big brains," D'Orazio said. "But if their hearts are in the wrong place, their brain will be as well. The people who work for me make it so easy to be nice and respectful to them. They make me want to come in and work with them."

Throughout his life, D'Orazio has done great things in such a short time that most people could only hope to accomplish half of what he's accomplished.

He has been a private business owner and co-president of independent businesses. He created two pilot fitness programs, for both state and federal agencies; both were piloted under the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. The "Getting Stronger, Now" for the state of Maryland, and the "Semper Fit" program for USMC.

D'Orazio was selected as an ambassador to the Marine Corps Marathon for more than 20 years of contributions to the MCM, and he was also selected as the key DOD representative to office of the secretary of defense in support of The President's Council on Fitness during the administration of President George W Bush.

These are just a taste of what D'Orazio has accomplished in his life on top of his educational background including a Bachelor's degree in physical education/health and a Master's degree in education.

"D'Orazio is a remarkable man," Martin said. "He has changed the Marine Corps for the better."

Even through hardships and speed bumps that come with the territory of making a great change, D'Orazio never forgot the Marine Corps' motto: Semper Fidelis.

"He cares for his employees, Semper Fit and the Marines more than himself," said Thomas Loughlin, director of Marine Corps Community Services in Quantico. "You can depend on him to have your back 24/7. He's the type of person who will truly be missed by all that have been around him."