"Some of the civil affairs guys in World War II ended up being mayors of German towns after the war," Beers said Sunday.
Liu (D-Flushing) presented Beers, 31, with a City Council citation at a small farewell ceremony in his district office on 38th Street Sunday. Beers and his unit, the 353rd Civil Affairs Unit out of Staten Island, left Monday for additional training before shipping out to Iraq later this week, he said.
"I felt it was important to do this," Liu said. "Joshua didn't want to accept any recognition, but he accepted it on the part of his compatriots going over and who are there now."
In the Civil Affairs Unit Beers will help assess the condition of areas, maintain order and operations in Iraqi municipalities, work with civilians and start reconstruction of devastated regions, he said.
"In times of war civil affairs runs towns and keeps peace," Beers said. "In Iraq, since we turned over the country, we'll be doing a lot of humanitarian assistance and reconstruction."
While the unit's mission is to help the Iraqi people, anti-American sentiment may make his job difficult, he said.
"We're supposed to go in with our hands out and say 'we're here to help,' but we have to be able to get ourselves out if there is a problem," he said "It's a fine line we have to walk."
Beers has been working with Liu since October handling legislative items in the councilman's City Hall office. Originally from Houston, Beers moved to New York in 2001 and has also worked with Borough President Helen Marshall.
"I tried to get a sense of everything," he said. "I do want to do something in public service."
For Liu, Beers's call to active duty, which could keep him overseas for nine months to two years, makes him think about the choices he has to make in the Council, he said.
"As I watch Joshua go abroad, it instills in me the need for myself and other elected officials to think about what young people are faced with and ensure any decisions made are correct," Liu said. "We're looking forward to having Josh back with us as soon as possible, safe and sound."
Erin Tam, Beers' girlfriend, is worried about his going, but she is glad it is for a good cause.
"He's doing something good for the country, but it's definitely a little scary to think about what's going to happen," she said. "I'll take it one step at a time."
But to Beers, his tour is not just about doing something for America, he said.
"Regardless of what people think of the duties of a soldier, I'm going to help the people of Iraq and help rebuild their country," Beers said.
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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