The brave men who stayed behind as the last of the trapped soccer team made their way to freedom, have posed for a rare photo – and it didn’t take long for it to go viral.
With diving gear hanging from their bodies, the four Thai Navy SEALs who were the last out of the flooded cave complex in northern Thailand, gave the camera a thumbs up.
“All 4 Thai Navy SEALS came out safely… Hooyah Hooyah Hooyah,” the caption read on the Thai Navy SEAL Facebook post.
The image was shared more than 100,000 times with another 50,000 praising them for their successful mission.
The SEALs waited until every member of the soccer team was rescued from the cave before returning to safety and have since been hailed as heroes.
Daring cave rescue saves Thai boys
Eight of the boys were rescued by a team of Thai and international divers on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday, the final four boys and their coach were guided out of the cave.
Cheers erupted from the dozens of volunteers and journalists awaiting news of whether the intricate and high-risk rescue mission had succeeded.
Helicopters transporting the boys roared overhead. People on the street cheered and clapped when ambulances ferrying them on the last leg of their journey from the cave arrived at a hospital in Chiang Rai city in far northern Thailand near the Myanmar border.
Their joy and relief was echoed around the globe by the multitude of people who had followed the long ordeal.
Payap Maiming, who helped provide food and necessities to rescue workers and journalists, noted that fact.
“I’m happy for Thais all over the country,” he said. “And actually just everyone in the world because every news channel has presented this story and this is what we have been waiting for.”
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“It’s really a miracle,” Payap said. “It’s hope and faith that has brought us this success.”
The plight of the boys and their coach captivated much of the world – from the heart-sinking news that they were missing, to the first flickering video of the huddle of anxious yet smiling boys when they were found by a pair of British divers 10 days later.
The group had entered the sprawling Tham Luang cave to go exploring after soccer practice on June 23, but monsoon rains soon filled the tight passageways, blocking their escape.
Each of the boys, aged 11 to 16 and with no diving experience, was guided out by a pair of divers in the three-day high-stakes operation.
The route, in some places just a crawl space, had oxygen canisters positioned at regular intervals to refresh each team’s air supply.