The 12 Thai soccer players who were saved from a flooded cave gave their heartfelt thanks Monday to daring rescuers on the first anniversary of their ordeal.
The boys participated in a Buddhist ceremony and spoke to reporters about their lives since being saved from a confounding labyrinth of underwater caverns.
The youngest of the group, 12-year-old Chanin Vibulrungruang, says he now must tell his parents where he is going each time he leaves home.
"I already told my mom I was coming to this event," he said. "My life has changed a lot since then because many people recognize me now."
The team and their coach walked into the Tham Luang cave complex in northern Thailand after soccer practice on June 23, 2018. They left their cleats and bicycles outside the entrance.
But floodwaters trapped them inside and sent them scrambling for higher ground, driving them deeper into complex.
A massive search was launched after the boys failed to come home. They were lost for nine days, subsisting on small amounts of food and water. Another eight days passed as Navy SEALs guided each of them through dark passageways filled with water and strong currents.
"I want to say thank you to everyone who took part in saving all of our lives," said coach Ekapol Chantawong. "We promise that we'll be good role models to society."
The boys, now aged 12 to 17, are torn between wanting to become professional soccer players and training to be Navy SEALs, like their rescuers.
They also paid tribute to Saman Gunan, who lost his life during the rescue effort. "He was the one who helped us, and we need to remind ourselves that every day," said Adul Sam-on, who is now 14.