Wild Boars go home, will become monks to honor SEAL

The 13 Wild Boars who were rescued from Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai by an international team of divers and support personnel, went home from hospital to their families yesterday, a day earlier than expected. And all vowed to become ordained as Buddhist monks to honor the memory of the Thai Navy SEAL who lost his life trying to save them.

“We will all go together to the temple and spend time as Buddhist monks to make merit for Lt. Cmdr. Saman Kunan,’’ said their 25-year-old coach Ekkapol Chantawong. “All our hearts broke when we were told a SEAL had died. We all feel terrible for his family.”

Four of the boys expressed the goal of becoming Navy SEALs in the future so they could help others as they had been helped. Nearly every boy is still harboring dreams of becoming professional football players, but all pledged to become good people and good citizens.

Looking healthy, energetic and happy, the boys wore matching football jerseys while answering questions from local and foreign media along with three Thai Navy SEALs, the army doctor who cared for them in the cave, the governor of Chiang Rai and medical staff from Chiang Rai Prachanukoh hospital. A hospital psychologist urged the media to let the boys live normal lives, and the new governor said outsiders would have to get permission from district and village officials if they wanted to talk to the boys.

All the team apologized to their parents during the press conference and several said they were expecting to be punished. “And we deserve it,’’ said 11-year-old Chanin Vibulrungruang, the youngest.

They also said they feared falling behind in school and wondered how they would ever catch up on their homework after being rescued.  Amazingly, none of the boys admitted ever doubting that they would get out.

The Wild Boars described surviving without food for 10 days by drinking water dripping from the cave walls. Following the instructions of coach Ekkapol, each day they would check if the water level had dropped – it didn’t – and venture along passageways to search for other sources of fresh water. To sustain their hope they would see daylight again, some used rocks to try and dig their way out through the cave walls, a futile exercise considering how far below ground they were.

The boys bonded with each other and their rescuers, especially Navy SEAL Baitoey who stayed with them along with a Thai Army doctor named Pak Lohanchun after they were discovered until were all brought out safely.

“Baitoey was the king of the cave. I felt like he was my Dad because he always called me ‘son,’” said team captain Duganpet Promtep, 13.  “We were like family,” said coach Ekkapol.

Asked what they would do after getting home, all the boys said they wanted to eat. “I want chocolate, bread, and crispy pork,’’ said Chanin.

None, however, have any desire for further cave explorations. “I might go back if someone from a government agency who is a cave expert asked me to. But I would only stand at the entrance. I’m not going inside ever again,’’ said coach Ekkapol.

The boys were told that Thailand’s His Majesty King  Maha Vajiralongkorn had expressed concern about them, and the rescue teams, every day. Before leaving the stage to go home, they gave the traditional ‘wai,’ hands together gesture of respect to the local and international audience, and then kneeled in reverence before a portrait of His Majesty the King.