Veteran Chimney Sweep

May 27th, 2012 by affordablesweep Leave a reply »


Few who are newly established in the chimney sweeping business have four tours in the Middle East listed on their resumes, but such is the case for Michael J. Baum, a Merrimack native who recently returned home after a nine-year enlistment in the Navy.

Baum, 30, a graduate of Merrimack High School and recent founder of Veteran Chimney, not long ago was part of a border patrol team in Kuwait and Iraq. His specialty was jet mechanics.

Baum said after graduating from high school in 2000 he worked for a chimney service company. He excelled in the trade but hankered for something more challenging. He was athletic and good in academics. He had played high school tennis and enjoyed football, but he craved something more.

“I always had an interest in aviation, so I called my dad and asked for advice,” Baum said. “My dad was in the Navy for nine years, just like me. He was a jet mechanic, among other things, and served in Vietnam. So, I enlisted at age 20, after two years of chimney sweeping.”

Baum, whose parents divorced when he was a teen, soon was trained and then stationed in Virginia. It was from there he was deployed – four times – to the Middle East.

“There, you saw a lot of sand – that’s it, sand,” Baum said. “It could reach 130 degrees or go down to 50 during the year. We’d be in fully armored vehicles, going on patrol looking for suspicious activity.”

When Baum and his fellow patrol members were assigned to more populated areas, the concerns for their safety escalated. Patrolling was activity loaded with dangers, he said.

“We were always on the lookout for illegal contraband – live rounds, ammunition and explosive devices,” Baum said. “We’d also inspect crates and machinery in transit. We never knew what we’d find.”

Baum said he encountered not only Iraqi citizens but many people from other nations who oftentimes had come into Iraq because of wars or famines in their own countries.

“There were lots of people who were nationals from India and Somalia,” Baum said. “They were all mixed in with locals wearing the traditional, long, white garb. The Iraqi women, they were head-to-toe covered up mostly in black, at all times of year.”

He said constant vigilance was needed. While traveling, the team used extreme caution, as roads might be planted with explosive devices.

“The kids were the most friendly,” Baum said. “They’d run around freely, always kicking a ball around. Soccer – what they call football – is really big over there.”

Baum nevertheless stayed on guard. He said he never forgot about Timothy Mark Gibson, a Merrimack High School friend with whom he had played youth baseball. Gibson joined the Marines and was killed in 2005 in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

Now that Baum is back home in Merrimack, he often lights a votive candle whose flame reflects off the glass of a military-style portrait of smartly uniformed Timmy Gibson, a Marine Corps corporal.

The portrait occupies a place of honor in Baum’s home-based office, headquarters of his newly launched business, Veteran Chimney. The fully equipped chimney-sweeping service, fully licensed and insured, opened in August.

Baum gives nods to Brian Tenhave, a friend since sixth grade with whom he played high school tennis and soccer, for helping with the new company’s advertising and publicity. Thus far, the efforts have been rewarded with requests for chimney sweeping, inspections and pellet-stove cleaning and repair, along with jobs related to mortar repair on weathered or damaged chimneys.

Baum said he intends to give great service and discounts for veterans. He credits as an inspiration to a solid work ethic his mother, Helene Baum, a registered nurse for some 25 years at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Manchester. Baum’s stepfather, Robert Walsh, another of Michael’s mentors, also was a longtime employee there before passing on last year.

Baum mused that it is the experience of his own military service, his many visits to the V.A., and his dad’s inspirations that have given him such a deep respect for fellow veterans. Now, his mission is to continue to grow his business and be a part of the Merrimack community.



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