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Soldier, mother knew he would not return alive

Late last September, as he left for Iraq, mother and son both had a bad feeling about it: Eric Sieger, they feared, would not come home alive.

Krista Sieger walked her husband, Wolfgang, to the front door of their Layton home as he was preparing to leave for work last Friday. Standing outside were two men in uniform. At first, Krista Sieger thought they might be police officers, but then she looked at the uniforms and realized they were in the Army.

"Oh, I knew it. I just knew it," she said.

It was an official notification team. They had come to tell the family of 18-year-old Eric Sieger's death.

On Monday, the Defense Department posted the announcement the Siegers had been dreading for four months:

"Spc. Eric R. Sieger, 18, of Layton, Utah, died Feb. 1 at Buritz, Iraq, of wounds when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle rolled over. Sieger was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas."

Military officials are investigating whether the vehicle rolled as a result of an accident or because of enemy action. Meanwhile, Sieger's family was not certain by early afternoon Monday when his body would be returned for burial but believed it would be back on Thursday at the latest.

Eric Sieger was one of the family's 15 children. He and three siblings from the same biological family were adopted by the Siegers, who are originally from Austria. Three other children also were adopted.

"We had eight birth children, and we had a real good time with them," so the family decided to adopt so that they could help other children, Krista Sieger said.

"Eric was a very fun boy. He liked the out-of-doors ... building things and repairing things, and he liked dogs. He was always really nice to the dog."

He was home-schooled, she noted.

Eric Sieger joined the Army when he was 17. On March 9, he would have turned 19.

The young man wanted to be in the military, and he loved the infantry, his mother said.

"We were proud of him when he wanted to join the Army," she said.

But at the time, the family thought the war wouldn't last much longer. And Eric Sieger did not want to go to Iraq.

"He knew he would not come back alive," she said. Before he left, he said, "'I'm not coming back alive. I'm coming back in a coffin.'

"I knew it, too," Krista Sieger said.

"I told him, 'You'll be all right. It's not true.' But I could not tell him I knew it (the feeling) was true. ... But of course there was hope that this premonition would not come true."

Though he had that terrible foreshadowing, Eric did his duty and deployed to Iraq. The family waited, hoping that everything would be all right after all.

That's why learning of his death came as a shock, she said, "because you don't want it to happen."

The family is distraught.

"It's a dreadful time in our life," she said.

Eric's girlfriend, whom he met in Texas while stationed at Fort Hood, has called the family and plans to attend the funeral.

Krista Sieger said talking to the media about her son at such a difficult time was a tribute to him and to all the other soldiers.