updated 12/9/2006 1:47:26 AM ET 2006-12-09T06:47:26

A soldier's fiancee received a package in the mail with an engagement ring — just hours after learning that her love had been killed in Iraq, his family said.

Sgt. Yevgeniy Ryndych, 24, died Wednesday in Ramadi, the Defense Department said.

"He had proposed over the phone from Iraq within the past month," said the soldier's brother, Ivan Ryndych. "He bought an engagement ring over the Internet."

Ryndych, who was born in Ukraine and immigrated to New York City as a teenager, was on his second tour of duty in Iraq, his brother said. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion based at Fort Carson, Colo.

Ivan Ryndych said his brother had gone on to a special-forces unit after his first tour in Iraq ended last year. But he volunteered to rejoin his old unit when it headed back to Iraq, his brother said.

"His exact words to me were, 'I don't want to leave them behind,'" Ivan Ryndych said.

A flag flew at half-staff outside the family's Staten Island home Thursday; inside, the living room displayed photographs of Ryndych in uniform.

A voracious reader who enjoyed military-strategy games, Ryndych had wanted to join the Army for years, his brother said.

"He just liked the whole Army concept," Ivan Ryndych said.

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