Steven Burchik

Veteran, Author, Photographer

Compass and a Camera: One Soldier’s View of the Vietnam War



With a compass to direct him in his job as a forward observer and a personal camera to document his experiences—and keep him connected to his creative side—Vietnam veteran Steven Burchik was lucky enough to make it home and years later decided to write about the most challenging year of his life.

Like any experience, his year spent with the First Infantry Division stationed in the rice paddies near Saigon included good times as well as bad. He candidly recalls how, although he believed communism to be a serious threat in the world, he soon learned that a guerilla war is a difficult one to fight, and survival rather than victory quickly became his focus. But he also remembers the exhilaration of helicopter rides over serpentine rivers and the time he introduced village kids to a gumball machine.

A unique memoir of the war, this presentation pulls not only from Burchik’s memories, but also from the daily letters he wrote to his fiancée (she kept every single one) and includes numerous photographs from his collection of over four thousand. The images alone make this lecture a must-see for any history buff or fellow veteran.

Steven Burchik grew up in New York City and earned his bachelor’s degree from Manhattan College during the turbulent 1960s. He worked his way through school, including a stint at the New York Daily News, and remained active on campus—even starting a second student newspaper to provide an outlet for students to voice different views. After graduating, he entered the US Army at the peak of the Vietnam War. He trained at various bases in the U.S. then spent a year in the rice paddies northeast of Saigon in the role of a forward observer as a sergeant with the First Infantry Division. He later earned his MBA from Michigan State University and had a successful career as a marketing executive and entrepreneur in the food industry.

Married with grown children, Burchik enjoys pursuing photography and sailing on San Francisco Bay. Compass and a Camera, his memoir of his Vietnam War experience, was his first book. According to Kirkus review, his book is “an evenhanded, tasteful, just-the-facts time capsule of one American soldier’s Vietnam experience.