Back in the summer of ‘98, the Ambrosia crew was supplemented by the occasional intern. One of those interns was Ben Heffron, introduced to the masses in this interview, conducted by Jason Whong.
Ben was here for the Fax machine tech support call that was so famously and shamelessly ripped off in the film “Office Space”.
We kept in touch with Ben over the years, even asking him in when we needed a hand entering orders for the release of EV Override. Here he is with John Champlin, the current media liaison for Ambrosia - both obviously working hard.
After working at Ambrosia, Ben joined the US Army. In early 2005 Ben was shipped to the mideast, and then to Iraq in support of Operation: Iraqi Freedom. Of course when all of us at Ambrosia heard that Ben was heading to a war zone we were all worried, but mostly we were proud of and impressed by the young man that Ben had become.
We'd had encounters with soldiers stationed in Iraq previously, but this was the first time for all of us that it had hit so close to home.
Sitting in our schwank offices playing games was hard to reconcile with the sacrifices of our former coworker. We felt we should do something to acknowledge his sacrifice and service. It was just a small gesture, but we decided to send his unit a care package. Some goodies we'd all love to get under any circumstance, but in the hardship of a combat zone we hoped it would make his stay even just a tiny bit more comfortable.
When Ben heard we were going to send a care package, he replied with this:
"Wow! Sounds awesome! I am really honored and flattered that you would go and do all of this to support us. It means a lot to the guys here. I hope that you can start a trend so that other units can feel the love too! I have to get around to sending you the names of the guys in my section, something for a more personal touch on your end.
as for feedback- you got it! i again want to tell you that we appreciate. i hope all is well with you and yours!"
Ben's lovely wife AmberLynn sent her gratitude in a letter to John:
Hmm. never thought I would be writing a "Dear John" letter. Anyway...I am Ben's wife Amber. He told me about you/Ambrosia wanting to help out deployed soldiers. That is really cool, even if it is not set in stone or anything yet. I just wanted to thank you for keeping in touch with Ben I know that he appreciates it greatly. Even that alone helps out morale as much as anything tangible."
All of the Ambrosia employees chipped in, and I went shopping for both necessities and goodies. WalMart took care of the necessities, and I went to the Book Rack, a used book store in Henrietta New York to get some reading material. As I loaded a pile of books onto the counter, the owner remarked on all of the books I was buying. I told him they were going to be sent to a unit in Iraq. He acknowledged that with interest, and seemingly went on with his business. When I went to check out, he asked if the soldiers would appreciate comic books. Being a hard core comics geek myself I assured him someone there would appreciate them. At that, with no encouragement on my part, he gave me over $50 worth of brand new comics to send on to Ben and his unit. Kudoes to the Book Rack at 3047 West Henrietta Rd.
Later that week Charlene and I got together to package up the goodies.
If you look closely and can read upside down, you can see one of the books scored at the Book Rack.
Yep, that little yellow book is titled....Escape Velocity! Kizmet!
More items for the package-
Right below the Diamond labeled box is a box of rare Carlos Fuente cigars contributed by Andrew. Soldiers and stogeys - perfect.
When we put out the call for goodies, my son Zach offered up his XBox and the few games he had. Yes I'm proud of him.
We sent games for the XBox, DVDs, CDs, hand sanitizer, chap stick, bug spray, sun screen, handy wipes, magazines, books, packs of batteries, mouthwash, and we tossed in a few sets of Ambrosia playing cards and some Ambrosia T Shirts. With large concentrations of young men living in tents, clean shirts would have to be appreciated.
Ben had sent us the names of each of the men in his unit, and everyone here at Ambrosia wrote a letter (or two) to an individual soldier. We wanted all of them to know how much we appreciated what they were doing.
We loaded up the package and sent it on to Iraq.
To be frank, I was a bit concerned that what we were doing might be perceived as a cheesy gesture. Sending a few bottles of hand sanitizer and some books can hardly convey the depth of what we were all feeling. Then Ben sent this reply:
"Nothing else conveys the feelings expressed when recieving such a package.
Little story about when we got it. It being so big it attracted quite a bit of attention hauling it down from the company office to the platoon office. That being said there was a small crowd(four people really) around me as I opened this box o' wonder. So I opened it, we all oooh, and go ahh and I was passing out t-shirts like candy on halloween. We planned on putting them on, and getting a group picture. I put one on, as did three other guys. Then I placed a call to get everyone together in one of our shanty's and BOOM!!!
The whole damn room shook and my NCO(SSG VanHese) started hollaring for us to get our battle rattle on and was grabbing the phone to place calls. The FM was in the background...
"bulldog xray this is charger xray, incoming fire"
no #*@&, it hit the ground behind my building and over one.
"charger xray this is bulldog xray, what is your status?"
well, they don't talk with us, we just monitor the radio, and we were kicked out of the office to go find a bunker asap, so I don't know what else was said. Turned out no one was hurt, but there was a crater, some damage to various trucks & equipment, a couple more mortars elsewhere, and the insurgents got away.
So needless to say, the group photo was put on hold. I have to scrounge people up again, so I can get a pic, but it will be a hot minute as everyone is scattered to the nine winds.
Thank you all so VERY much, it really meant a lot to the guys here. I am still passing out stuff to the guys, and I plan on puffin a cigar this AM as I don't have any PT after work(its Sunday I think).
Hope you are all well!
PS- everyone says thanks, but I expect half of them are too lazy to express it more than to me, so:
from the V3's! =D"
This came from Ben's staff sgt:
"This is a Thank You from Iraq to the staff of Ambrosia Software. I did not know how else to forward a Thank You letter. Everyone there at Ambrosia has left quite an impression on Young Mister Heffron. I do not know what kind of kid he was but he has turned out to be quite handy with computers, even if most if that is MAC knowledge.
By the way I am SSG VanHese and I did leave family behind. A pregnant wife and three boys, with the fourth due anytime."
In such a grim place, in the face of real danger, they took the time to acknowledge our little gesture. It reinforced to all of us just how lucky we are to have men and women like these willing to make the sacrifices they do. The soldiers there truly are the best of us.
It just goes to show that even the smallest gesture is appreciated by people in harm's way.
When they had a calm moment, they were able to take and send us these pictures.
Now there is a group of heart breakers and name takers! That's Ben in the middle at bottom.
I have to include this one.
Armed Alchemists of Amusement! Ben with an M-16 - a combination of fear and pride ensues.
Of course, this is more like the Ben we all remember.
Ben was able to come back to Rochester on leave last year, and we celebrated his return with an extended lunch at the Dinosaur Bar B Q. Here we are basking in our post pork euphoria.
And now we're glad to report that Ben will be on his way home soon.
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