The Rescue Team at the Tham Luang Caves
For showing that faith, teamwork, and indomitable courage can work miracles
When 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach became trapped in Thailand’s Tham Luang cave complex on June 23, some two and a half miles from where they had entered, there was little hope for their rescue. Thailand’s rains — so constant during the summer monsoon season — seemed destined to fill Tham Luang’s caverns. Surely any rescue mission would be doomed by the tiny passageways, the rising waters, and the fact that most of the boys could not swim.
What transpired over the next 18 days was a procession of miracles. One after the other.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the world was watching as an international team of cave experts, military personnel, and volunteers — 10,000 people in all — arrived on the scene and got to work. After entering the cave, the rescuers navigated the impossibly narrow passages in darkness so thick they could not see their own hands. On July 2, the trapped boys and their coach were found alive — but they remained in grave danger of dying before they could be brought to safety. What followed was a remarkable display of collaboration, bravery, and ingenuity. Rescuers used oxygen masks, stretchers, and makeshift ropes and slides to guide the boys out of the caves. Two weeks after they emerged, the boys who had been given up for dead were released from a local hospital.
The incredible success of the Thai cave rescue mission is far more than just a feel-good story in a world that could use more of them. It’s a story of how a courageous group of Thai Navy SEALs risked their lives by attempting the rescue mission without specialist knowledge or equipment — and a governor who remained calm, reassuring, and informative throughout. It’s also an example of how a team assembled from all over the world could work together under enormous pressure to save 13 lives — through intelligence, persistence, and sheer bravery.
Now fully recovered, the boys were ordained monks along with their coach in a ceremony that also honored a Navy SEAL member who died during the operation. His example — and those of his peers — are poised to have a lasting influence on the lives of the young survivors.
“I want to be a Navy SEAL,” said one boy. “Because I want to help others.”