Best Special Forces - 2009
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, the Army has had a difficult time attracting new recruits, thus forcing existing troops to return for multiple tours of duty. Perhaps the generals should look in the basement of a small bookshop on the Lower East Side, where legions of combat-ready troops have amassed. In the slightly dusty display cases at Burlington Toys, there lurk battalions of wooden and lead soldiers. For more than 30 years, Steve Balkin has tended this subterranean regiment, and an afternoon visit will usually find him seated in a corner of his shop, paintbrush in hand, working at a canvas or restoring a rifle-wielding Tommy. (His peripatetic career has also encompassed stints as a photographer, film actor, graphic designer, and Merchant Marine.) Though much of his collection tends toward the British and American, enthusiasts can also pick up Zulus, Swiss mercenaries, Frankish knights, Abyssinian troops, and Polish hussars. If World War III ever launches on a miniature scale, Balkin will be ready.