By Chuck Leonard
COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Stars and stripes can be found on more than just flags. Military uniforms also carry them as insignia. But what's a soldier to do if he or she loses one? They can always get a replacement at a specialty store in Columbus, which has been serving the military for almost 50 years.
Paul Voorhees was a teenager when his father started Ranger Joe's at the corner of 10th and Broadway. Back then it was called Columbus Army Surplus, but a friendly colonel changed all that.
"We sold him some uniforms and he got to liking my dad", says Voorhees, "...and before it was over he was calling him Joe." That's right, he began calling Jack Voorhees, Joe, and he wasn't alone. "Not long after that the Rangers from 3rd Ranger Company were coming down here to talk to us, and they were calling him Joe. So that's how the store got the name Ranger Joe's, which was between 1963 and '65."
Voorhees says parking was always a problem downtown, so in 1976 Ranger Joe's relocated to Victory Drive. Business went through the roof!
"It's an institution, "says Maj. John Roscoe, a member of the Georgia Army National Guard. "I mean, since day-one of basic training. I left Bravo right here at Fort Benning and this is where you came when you got a chance to get off duty to get uniforms done and uniforms sewed on."
Ask anyone connected to Fort Benning, and they'll you tell that Ranger Joe's is the go-to store for military stuff. Soldiers come for all sorts of items, Ranger tabs, American flags, and the sales staff is glad to help. Some are even envious, like training coordinator Robert Scroggs.
"This is like a toy store in a sense, a lot of the guys come in here, you know. They just have to keep the paychecks away from their wives, so they can buy stuff."
The store does well with its foot traffic, but most of those "paychecks" are being spent by online customers and catalog shoppers. Voorhees says, seventy-percent of his business now is mail-order. "We sell things around the world. Sometimes we have a thousand customers a day." In fact, he calls his distribution center on Farr Road the best kept secret in Columbus.
What's not a secret is his love for the community and for the men and women in uniform. The soft-spoken Voorhees, who is an ordained minister, wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to the military. "God was at His best when he created the American soldier."