He has been one of the longest serving soldiers in the British Army and has been deployed to some of the world’s worst troublespots.
But next month Major Hugh Benson will fold up his beret and fatigues and face one of the toughest challenges to date — life in ‘civvy street’.
The 55-year-old Royal Irish Regiment soldier, whose military career has taken him to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo is to step down after 39 years as an infantryman in just a few weeks.
Originally from the Shankill area of Belfast, the major joined the Army in 1971 to stop himself “getting into a bit of bother” and despite the obvious difficulties of combat life has never looked back.
“I’m sure that Jenny, my wife of 33 years, is glad that I’m leaving. She’s followed me all over the world throughout my career. But I have to admit, I would stay if I could. I’ve had a ball,” he said
Lieutenant Colonel Ed Freely, commanding officer of 1 Royal Irish, paid tribute to his longest serving officer.
“Service of such length and of such consistent outstanding altruistic quality is rare indeed,” said Lieut-Col Freely.