Trapped for two weeks after a sudden downpour turned their underground adventure into a nightmare, the group were guided one-by-one along the flooded four kilometre passage back to the cave’s entrance.
As they recover in hospital, the world is hailing the work of the international rescue team led by Thai Navy SEALs who, after the group was discovered on July 2, scoped the route to freedom and prepared the boys for the dangerous journey that was to come.
But most of all, the world is remembering the man who lost his life so they could be free: Petty Officer First Class Saman Kunan.
The highly experienced diver died on July 6 while on a mission to deliver three oxygen tanks to the trapped team. According to local authorities, the 37-year-old lost consciousness on his return journey due to lack of oxygen.
His diving partner attempted to revive him, but to no avail.
Saman's wife, Waleeporn, told the BBC she is struggling to come to terms with her husband's death.
“It’s like I’ve died, but I’m still alive," she said.
“He loved helping others, doing charity work and getting things done. So I use pride to help deal with my sorrow.
“I loved him so much. I really loved him."
Waleeporn spoke about the strength of their relationship and the affection they would show each other daily.
“Every day before he left for work we said we loved each other. At midday we’d text each other to see if the other had had lunch. In the evening when he got home, I would ask him how he was," she said.
“Saman once said we never knew when we would die. We can’t control that, so we need to cherish every day.”
She had one last message for her "hero" husband: "I want to tell you, honey, you are the hero in my heart. You always were and you always will be."
— James Massola (@jamesmassola) July 10, 2018
Saman's mission was not via orders nor out of obligation.
He was one of 28 retired SEALs who volunteered to join the 80-plus divers (mostly SEALs, plus others from Australia, the US, UK, China) involved in the rescue effort.
According to The Bangkok Post, he took time off from his job as a security officer at Suvarnabhumi airport to help his SEAL colleagues. He'd joined the effort the day before his death.
In a selfie video recorded before joining the rescue, Saman vowed to return the boys safely.
"I am at airport waiting to board the plane to join the mission in Chiang Rai," he tells the camera, according to a translation by a journalist for The Guardian.
"See you this evening. We will bring the kids home."
Navy spokesman Rr Adm Chettha Chaipiem said, despite Saman being retired from duty, the navy was considering asking His Majesty the King to promote him posthumously.
Saman's father, Wichai Kunan, 60, told the BBC he was immensely proud of his son.
“I am very proud but I am very sad, too. I lost my beloved son,” he said.
“May you rest in peace. Daddy loves you.”