Officially Quartermaster Sergeant PJ Walker has retired after 44 years of service with the Irish Army. However, according to the man himself, that figure isn't wholly accurate.
'They've been saying I was in it for 44 years but it was actually 47, I signed up underage, three years early,' he laughs safe in the knowledge that his previous indiscretions are now likely to be overlooked. Remarkably the 60 year-old joined up when he was aged just thirteen, and apart from a brief 24-hour period which began with him being given his marching orders for being too young and concluded with him signing up again in a different office, he has been in the army ever since.
'I enjoyed every second of it, there were good times and bad times obviously, but I made some great friends there.' And despite his time at the Wexford Military Barracks coming to an end, PJ is not quite ready to put his feet up just yet. 'I was thinking of going into the Civil Defence. If there wasn't an age barrier on joining the guards I'd sign up with them,' he says.
Ideally though, he'd have liked to have stayed exactly where he was: 'The age should be extended for those who want it, not everyone could go on past 60 but I felt that I could have.' PJ, who also played junior football for Wexford, said that serving during the Special Olympics in 2003 was arguably the highlight of his career.
And with recruitment having begun yesterday and lasting all the way through April, PJ believes that the army represents a great opportunity for people looking to build themselves a lasting career. 'It's a good career move nowadays, there's a lot more opportunities in the job now but far less people doing it. It's a great stepping stone to other things even if you don't end up staying there.'