Jersey Magazine with Jim Monaghan

Jersey Magazine with Jim Monaghan

Jersey Magazine with Jim Monaghan

Brian Bergen is a New Jersey Assemblyman serving the 26th District which covers Morris and Passaic Counties. As a graduate of West Point, and a captain in the United States Army (1997-2008) Brian is absolutely passionate in his crusade for military veteran benefits.

May is Military Appreciation Month and one of the recent topics on Jersey Magazine we’ve been focusing on is how to best help veterans make the transition back to civilian life after their military service is completed.

This morning on the Jersey Magazine, Brian and Jim Monaghan discuss a variety of veterans-related issues.

Brian Bergen – Veterans Benefits

JIM MONAGHAN – One of the things that we’ve been talking about frequently this month has been the transition from military life back to civilian life. So let me ask you as a member, former member of the military, what was that like for you transitioning back from military life to the so-called civilian world?

BRIAN BERGEN – Yeah well look I appreciate you asking it because this is something that’s often overlooked and it’s a real difficult transition.

You got to imagine these people were broken down and their life totally transformed into something different and they’re integrated into a society that they then have to leave and join a whole different society.

For me it was really tough. The biggest and the hardest challenge for me quite honestly was just understanding that in the military especially being an officer everybody’s moving linearly towards a different goal.

Well the same goal, the united goal, which is to progress through the ranks and to grow in responsibility and in the civilian world it’s not quite the same way.

You could have peers of yours who are ambitious and seek in promotion, you could have peers of yours who will stay in the same position for their whole lives because they have different priorities. Maybe they prioritize family or they prioritize their kids sports or some other extracurricular activities.

Then you have other people who might be demoted in the same role.

It’s hard for somebody in the military to understand that because like I said we’re all marching forward towards progress it seemed. It’s just different. It’s hard to understand that and it takes a while for people to adapt.

JM – You know I was thinking as you were talking about that, my dad who had come back from World War II and he worked for a few years afterwards and he went to college after that on the GI Bill so it’s I don’t know maybe four or five years after the war is over and he’s sitting as a 20-something year old with these 18-year olds looking around going “Um yeah…I’m a little beyond this.” I mean he graduated and all but it was such a bizarre experience for him coming back.

BB – Yeah you have different perspective and you quite frankly have just a different worldview. I mean even if they were the same age and that’s the thing like you’re comparing it which is rightfully so it happens to a lot of someone coming back and enter an environment where these in school with younger kids but even if you come back you’re with people the same age you have a different worldview. You’ve seen things, experienced things whether you’ve been to combat or not that other people haven’t.

I think it gives you a different perspective, a unique perspective and it’s a challenge for most people to understand why everybody doesn’t share the same perspective when they come back and why don’t they see the bigger picture in some cases and that’s part of the challenge.

JM – You know coming back from combat I think everybody can realize that well this is going to be totally different coming back to civilian life but what about just the regular day-to-day military life how difficult is that transition back?

BB – Very difficult because like I said you’re just you’re in a different environment where the military is your priority. Every day everything is about the military and ultimately the mission and look whether or
not you serve in a combat environment you’re in some significantly stressful situations amongst
your peers.

Training is rough too so you form a common bond and united purpose and you’re training for the big mission. You know every single day you’re training for it you believe in it you’re looking forward to it and so when you leave that you’ve given away that camaraderie you’ve given away a group of people that all serve a common purpose towards a common goal and you’ve gotten yourself into society where people have their own self-interest and are working towards their own unique personal goals it’s just a little bit of a different environment.

JM – One of the guests who we had on a few weeks ago was Brigadier General Mike Eastman and he said that there are points in time where the family will say, “Dad, we’re home now.”

BB– That’s true that’s true it happens my wife does say to me periodically she’s like you know these kids are not your soldiers you know, they’re your children and you know sometimes it’s just it could be it could be frustrating because it’s just not you know kids are kids and they’re not doing what you’re telling them to do necessarily all the time, where they talk back it’s a little bit different.

That’s not to say that doesn’t happen in the military too I mean there’s this illusion that the military is just one big functional order and everybody just listens all the time doesn’t quite happen that way either but the recourse you can take when they don’t listen is quite different than with your family you know or anybody else in the civilian world.

The Transition From the Military To Politics

JM – So you come out and you go into politics and I mean if you’ve been on social media at all in the past few years you know how crazy that whole thing can be.

What is that like for you now coming you know basically from a military background working towards that common goal as you said and even though you know whatever party you’re on we think there’s a common goal the betterment of the country and the betterment of the citizens but what is that like working on a day-to-day in that environment?

BB – It makes me want to slam my face off with a concrete brick.

I mean that’s the best way to say it.

I would just when I think they can’t disappoint me more if they disappoint me again in politics and people are self-interested and selfish and quite often, and I hate to make people jaded, but for a lot of politicians out there the very last thing they’re thinking about is anybody else and the first thing they’re thinking about is their own interests their own agenda how they can benefit themselves.

Sometimes that’s coded in what they can do for their constituents or their district but in reality that that is a means to stay elected a lot of times now there are good people out there who are trying to do the right thing but they’re few and far between in the political world and it’s it’s really disheartening I’ve witnessed people trade their votes on things for you know for meaningless stuff that just fulfills their ego and isn’t actually and they know they’re doing the wrong thing that’s what bothers me the most you know when people know they’re doing the wrong thing but uh but that is not I’ve hope you know I I do I have hope that we can kind of turn around but I think it’s important to try to get veterans elected because you know again veterans have a different worldview for the most part and I think they’re more likely than anybody else to be able to sacrifice their own self-interest for the greater good because quite frankly that’s what they’ve had to do in before.

And look I I could be… this could be my last term as a state assemblyman. I could never be an elected official again and I’d be disappointed because I love what I do what I can do for people but I’m not going to sacrifice my integrity uh or my values in order to keep the office and oftentimes people will but I think veterans would be an exception for the most part now we’re not all perfect you know we have our flaws too and I’m not riding around my white horse here telling you I’m the perfect man either but I think there’s a something to be said from military service and how it mold you into a person that can see beyond your individual self-interest and the short term to the longer term greater good.

JM – I mentioned the disparity between what’s happening political uh lines lately but I do want to point out for our WDHA and WMTR listeners that you’ve had a number of bills that have been sponsored that have gone across the political aisle where you’ve had people working with you from the other party and I think that’s refreshing in many ways and again working towards a common goal we hope.

BB – It is possible, it really is possible, and you know I have a lot of “secret relationships” across the other side yeah I know okay I keep a corner all the time and you know they sometimes they they wish they could say what I say uh and they believe the same way I believe but you know there’s outside forces in the political world that sometimes control people and unfortunately a lot of times they’re controlled but yes there are things that we work on in a bipartisan way to try and get it done and you know that the best things that I work on don’t have my name on at all because I could just come up with a good idea work with good stakeholders and give it to somebody on the other side of the aisle who’s actually got a chance in hell to get it done because I don’t because I’m a Republican in the minority and they don’t want to see my name on anything but but you know it’s the military you know part of me that’s like as long as the mission’s accomplished that’s what really matters.

It’s not about credit or accolades or ribbons on your chests about getting the job done.

JM – One of the times that you were on with us earlier here on WDHA you talked about the difference between feel good benefits which have a place and real lasting benefits for New Jersey veterans.

To that point what have you been working on lately?

BB – It drives me nuts, the feel good stuff that doesn’t actually move the needle drives me insane because it’s something that politicians can use to go and glad hand people at VFWs and American Legions and say hey we’re doing something for the veterans when they’re not actually doing anything that’s going to move the needle for the veterans.

The biggest thing I got on my plate is the same thing as the last time I was on with it and the same time they did previously and that’s that tax credit, the tax abatement for veterans based on your disability rating.

Right now 100 percent disabled veterans don’t pay property taxes but 90 percent 80 percent 70 percent payer full boatload and the problem with that is if you are a 90 percent disabled veteran in New Jersey you make the same amount of money from the federal government as if you’re a 90 percent disabled veteran in Arkansas but the property taxes in New Jersey disproportionately affect you and they eat that money up so we should be level in that playing field by giving a reduction in the property taxes so those federal dollars being aimed to help the vet can help them the same way as in another state.

That bill, man if I do nothing else I’m going to get that bill done one day.

I don’t care how many my fellow politicians I have to sacrifice to get there it’s going it’s going to happen because it’s the right thing to do it’s a good bill and it might take me a decade but I’m going to I’m never going to stop working on that one.

JM – For DHA and MTR listeners who want to learn more about you where can they go?

BB – You can go to my website which is that has some info about me well also you can just go to the normal website which has all stuff about us and actually I would encourage people not just to go there to learn about me but to stay informed about the bills that are up in Trenton and to make your voice heard what whichever side of an issue you’re on.

It’s better that we hear from you than don’t hear from you and then find out you’re not happy after the fact.

  • Rock N Ruff

    Randolph Regional Animal Shelter is such and fantastic organization and Maci is a GREAT dog!

    Maci is just under a year old, has been DNA tested, and is 10 or 11 different breeds, (Boxer included) and has a bit of a broken heart. Maci was with a foster family, however they had a dog who wasn’t a fan of Maci, so this sweet girl was returned and now she feels as if her life is turned upside down. Sweet Maci is learning to trust again and really misses her human.

    Maci is a great size, and after she warms up you will be a friend for life, sticking close to your side and bonding with her special person. She barks a bit, to let you know “she’s here” and is friendly and likes the company of other dogs and even does fine with cats! Maci loves toys, walks well on a leash, and does well in the car and her crate. Maci is available via The Randolph Regional Animal Shelter.

    Stop by for a visit or call the shelter at -973-543-9333 or email [email protected]

    Photo Credit- Sunny Nowell

    Adoptions Are By appointment only

    Adoption fees
    Dogs and cats – $50 – all spayed, neutered, vaccinated

    Looking for 2?  Adopt one get one free!
    Kittens are $150 each and $250 for two (includes spay/neuter). 
    * Approved application required for all adoptions.

    We would love to see this sweet girl’s heart mend with the love of a new family, Maci truly deserves it!

    Thanks to Sunny Nowell and The Randolph crew for the great job they do and don’t forget to “OPT TO ADOPT”!

    Please check out more of my pet-related content and don’t forget to join us for our WDHA Dog Days Of Summer Adoption Day on Saturday 6/1 at our studios on Horsehill Rd in Cedar Knolls NJ! Info Here-! (Des Rocs performs!)

    WDHA’s Rock N’ Ruff Dog Days Of Summer Event

    WDHA’s Rock N’ Ruff Adoptable Pets

    5 Important Tips Before Adopting A New Pet

    Opt To Adopt! 

  • Coach Sheets' Ride In

    Jeremy Sheetinger is the head baseball coach at Georgia Gwinnett College where he led the Grizz Gang to the 2021 NAIA National Championship.

    These quick hits may, on the surface, be geared toward his fellow baseball coaches, but his motivational message can easily be applied to the classroom, workplace, and your personal relationships.

    This morning, Coach Sheets talks looking at our respective circle of friends and think about whether they inspire you or not. Do they help make you better?

  • Local Look

    Looking for something fun to do in the area? Chris Swendeman has you covered with this week’s Local Look.

    There are always so many fun events happening in our local communities.  Check out what’s in store for this week in New Jersey.

    • Stop by East Brunswick today for their annual Memorial Day Observe and Ceremony. The event takes place from 10 AM to 11 AM.  The event commemorates U.S. military personnel who gave their lives to protect our country. Visit for further details.
    • The warmer weather is here, that means it’s the time to enjoy a carnival. Head to the park a lot of the Garden State Plaza in Paramus for the lead fest from 3 to 11 PM today and Memorial Day. Admission is just $5 and it will be food, rides, entertainment and performances. Ride tickets are available separately.
    • And if you love spice and flavor, head to New Brunswick for the jerk fest today from 1 to 8 p.m. in Boyd Park. There will be food trucks featuring awesome jerk foods, live performances, shopping and so much more. Early bird tickets are just $10, kids under $10 are free.


    And that’s your Local Look for this week on The Jersey Magazine.  If you’d like your event to be featured on The Local Look, you can email us at [email protected].  See you next week on 105.5 WDHA.

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