GRANDVIEW -- It's easy to empathize with a disabled soldier missing a limb or confined to a wheelchair but the wounds on soldiers suffering a brain injury or post traumatic stress disorder can be invisible.
"They look just like everyone else," said Sara Shaw, 26, of Grandview. Her husband, Coban Shaw, 35, suffered a brain injury April 2006 while serving as an Army combat engineer with the 166th Armored Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, 1st Brigade in Iraq.
The Shaws are one of four military families who will be featured in a documentary, E! Investigates: Military Wives. The Los Angeles-based cable program will air at 10 p.m. today on cable channel E! Entertainment TV. The show documents how military families cope with death, PTSD, disabilities and more years after their warriors have returned home.
Coban Shaw is on permanent disability, unable to work. He's hypersensitive to light and sound, suffers from PTSD and the damage to his brain affects his ability cope with daily tasks.
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"For example, he can't start something and complete it," said Sara. "And he's limited to one task at a time. He can not talk and walk at the same time and go in a straight line.
"People assume he's fine but he's not. I bet there are a lot of veterans walking around with PTSD or brain injuries who don't even realize it," she said. "People don't think of that. It's not their reality. It is mine. I live it every day."
It's difficult, she said, to find other people to talk to about their situation.
"I'm on a lot of wounded warrior websites," she said. "It's hard to relate to people if they do not know what it's like. I find it easier to talk to friends in the military, even if we've never met."
One such website, www.notalone.com, was looking for people several months ago to share their stories.
"I sent the producer an e-mail explaining our situation. I didn't think they'd choose us but there was just something about our story they liked," she said.
Shaw was injured when he and his team were sent to destroy a bridge. He was perched in the gunner's hatch of their Humveee when an improvised explosive device went off. He was knocked unconscious, falling to the floor of the vehicle severely injuring his brain. Yet it wasn't until eight hours later, after the mission was completed and he sustained impacts from two more explosions, that he saw a medic.
"He knew something was wrong. He couldn't hear properly for a month, and had trouble walking and putting together sentences. He'd go out on a mission and forget his gun or his ammo. He'd forget conversations minutes later," she said. Yet the Army had him finish his tour, sending him home Nov. 29, 2006.
That's when he was diagnosed.
The Shaws two children, Serraphine, 5, and Kaelan, 1 don't understand what's going on, she said.
"They just know daddy's sick a lot," Shaw said.
w Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org