Days after their dramatic rescue made headlines around the world, members of the Wild Boars soccer team opened up about what it was like to be trapped inside a flooded cave in Thailand for more than two weeks.
The 12 boys, aged between 11 and 16, offered their first and likely only press conference in Thailand on Wednesday just after being discharged from the hospital.
WATCH: Thai cave boys leave hospital, talk about miracle rescue
Life after the rescue is shaping up for the boys, who sported new haircuts and had regained some weight.
They smiled and waved, offering the country’s traditional “wai” greetings on a national broadcast.
WATCH: Thai boy returns home after cave rescue
Many of the boys spoke of the lessons the ordeal taught them.
“This experience taught me to be more patient and strong,” one said.
“I told everyone, ‘Fight on, don’t despair,'” another said.
WATCH: Life after the Thai cave rescue
Another said he learned to make smarter choices and “live life to the fullest.”
Several also said they hope to emulate the heroes who saved them, and become rescuers themselves one day.
WATCH: Thai boys and coach play soccer after discharge from hospital
The group had planned to explore the Tham Luang cave complex for about an hour after soccer practice on June 23. But a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping them.
The soccer team also detailed what life was like inside the cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai, saying they didn’t have any food.
“We only drank water,” said one of the boys, nicknamed Tee. “On the first day, we were OK, but after two days, we started feeling tired.”
The team’s youngest member, who goes by the name Titan, added, “I had no strength. I tried not to think about food so I didn’t get more hungry.”
The boys also took turns digging at the cave walls using stones.
“We didn’t want to wait around until authorities found us,” their 25-year-old coach Ekkapol Chantawong said.
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Chantawong also paid tribute to Saman Kunan, a former Navy SEAL who died during the rescue operation.
The coach said Kunan’s sacrifice, and the selflessness of other rescuers, will not be forgotten by the team.
“We are impressed that Saman sacrificed his life to save us so that we could go and live our lives,” he said.
“We were very sad. We felt like… we caused sadness to his family.”
He added that the boys will spend time as novice Buddhist monks to honour the diver’s memory.
The boys, who returned home Wednesday night, all apologized for their actions.
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— With files from Reuters, The Associated Press