MEDFORD TOWNSHIP, N.J. (WPVI) -- "Once you handle a wild animal, it really hit my heart," said Richard Jones with a great horned owl on his glove.
Jones spent most of his life in service to the country and his family. For 45 years, he developed software for the United States Navy combat system. In the interim, he spent four years serving in the United States Air Force.
But after retiring from progressing mankind, he decided to preserve wildlife.
"It's an obligation to take care of the ecosystems in the Pinelands and to take care of the birds that I'm working with and I'm training," he said.
Jones has been volunteering with Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge for seven years now. Chief among his duties are caring for injured animals in the wildlife hospital and training birds of prey for educational purposes.
"I speak owl, yeah," he bragged while holding 'Hoodini,' the great horned owl. Hoodini would be soaring the skies as an apex predator if not for its injury near birth.
"If there were no volunteers to care for them, there's no other avenue for them," Jones said about the injured birds. "So, that's why it feels good to give them a second chance at life."
Jones is used to working behind the scenes with his wife at the wildlife refuge. But recently, he was recognized for his great work.
He was honored as the winning medalist for the New Jersey State Governor's Jefferson Awards' BD Animal Welfare category.
Despite the spotlight, Jones wants to make sure all of the 200-plus volunteers are represented in his recognition.
"I was singled out, but I mean, I'm just focused on doing the best I can to help," he said.
To learn more or get involved, visit the Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge website.