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Army veteran who used hiking to heal his PTS is killed on Appalachian Trail

May 15, 2019 - 11:33 am

An Army veteran who took solace in hiking to combat depression and post-traumatic stress from his time in the service was killed on the Appalachian Trail over the weekend.

Ronald S. Sanchez Jr., 43, of Oklahoma City, Okla., was fatally stabbed on the trail, the FBI's Richmond Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office reported, according to CNN.

James L. Jordan, of West Yarmouth, Mass., was charged with murder and assault, The Bristol Herald Courier reported.

Jordan allegedly stabbed Sanchez and a female hiker at a campsite along the trail Saturday. As of Tuesday, he was being held in a Virginia jail. During his first court appearance Monday, a U.S. District Court in Abingdon, Va. ordered Jordan to "undergo mental evaluations", the Herald Courier reported.

"He was adventurous and he got out of his shell and we were so proud of that because for a while he was in darkness," Sanchez's sister, Brenda Sanchez Loera, of California, told CNN, adding that her brother had been deployed to Iraq multiple times.

"To survive those deployments in Iraq and to die like this is just devastating," Sanchez's former wife, Elizabeth Kordek, of California, told CNN.

In a 2018 story, The Oklahoman spoke to Sanchez about his participation in a VA Medical Center veteran bicycle team.

"These programs at the VA just kind of opened it up for me," Sanchez told the paper. "Before the VA, my health was just going downhill."

Sanchez served 16 years in the Army and deployed to Iraq three times. In 2011, he was discharged from the Army with PTS and "major depression."

"For several years, he locked himself in a room, rarely going outside. When he had to shop for food, he would do it late at night to avoid being around other people," The Oklahoman reported.

A post on the "Hiking the World" Facebook group paid tribute to Sanchez, whose trail nickname was "Stronghold."

If you or someone you know needs help, contact the Veteran Crisis Line 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 (select option 1 for a VA staff member). Veterans, service members or their families also can text 838255 or go

Follow Abbie Bennett, @AbbieRBennett

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