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A mere couple days since the 12 soccer players and their coach were rescued from being trapped more than two weeks in a cave in Thailand, they’re looking spritely. Throwing peace signs through the glass in the isolation ward where they’ll stay for a few more days while recovering, the resilient soccer squad, the Wild Boars, are glad to be back above ground. After 18 days and a grueling rescue mission, more details are still surfacing as to how they remained so strong through such an intense, terrifying process.

These boys and their coach had so many factors against them that their relatively unscathed escape has attracted astonished onlookers around the world.

“The world just needs to know that what was accomplished was a once in a lifetime rescue… It’s important to realize how complex and how many pieces of this puzzle had to come together,” said U.S. Air Force rescue specialist Derek Andersen. Just how complex was it? Their resilience tells all.

  • Extreme conditions: Near three weeks underground, nine days isolated before even being discovered, the conditions were incredibly extreme. With severely limited food the first nine days, then still limited access after, the boys lost an estimated average of 4.4 pounds while trapped. They can go without food for a long time, but water, not so much. Americans use an average of 88 gallons of water daily, these kids saved their own lives from drinking cave water dripping from the ceilings and walls.

    “To not receive food, we can still survive for many months, but what’s necessary is water, which the cave has, and around this time there’s a lot in the cave, and they chose clean water to drink,” said a Thai health inspector. This, along with the unwavering leadership of their coach in keeping their mental states in check, literally kept them alive as long as the rescue lasted.
  • Swimming: The young soccer players didn’t know how to swim, let alone cave dive in conditions difficult for veterans. Combine this with malnourishment, fatigue, fear, and a swiftly flooding cave and that makes for a nightmarish scenario. Nonetheless, they had to use underwater diving equipment and face dives a half-hour long, nearly a distance of a half-mile in black waters. A controversial decision was made to sedate the brave young ones because claustrophobia induced panic risked the lives of the children and rescuers. Still, they persevered.
  • Language: More than two-thirds of the world is bilingual or multilingual, but the scared team spoke very little English. Rescuers, both in the cave and on the surface, were from all around the world, many of them English speakers. This included the doctor who stayed in the cave with them until they were all out. Imagine being 12 years old and vaguely understanding that, after two weeks in a cave, you were about to be sedated, pulled underwater, and guided through a lightless cave. All 12 of them lived it. And they got out.

Officials call the rescue nothing short of miracle and are astonished by the international and local community supporting the efforts. The most impressive part? The resilience of the boys and their coach.

“The situation went beyond just being a rescue mission and became a symbol of unity among mankind. Everyone worked together without discrimination of race or religion as the ultimate goal was to save the youth football team,” remarked the governor of the Chiang Rai province where the rescue centralized.

Unity in the face of horror defies fear and, these past few weeks have shown unity that brought new hope and life from darkness. We’ll join the Wild Boars in throwing a V-for-Victory for that.