After a nailbiting two weeks, the world is letting out a collective sigh now that 12 boys and their coach were rescued from a dangerous flooded cave in Thailand.
While all 13 members of the soccer team were successfully brought to safety, one man died while attempting to aid the team.
The world is honoring Sgt. Saman Kunan, a former Thai Navy SEAL, for his honorable and selfless act. Kunan, 38, was working as a volunteer alongside rescuers when he lost his life.
Kunan died between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. while placing oxygen canisters underwater along the route to where the boys were stranded, which was need to replenish the air supply for the team in their cave.
Kunan passed out during the process and those who tried to resuscitate him failed.
Kunan was one of 80 Thai Navy SEALs who were involved in the rescue effort. He was known as a very athletic man with a kind and adventurous spirit.
He left behind a wife, Waleeporn Kunan.
“It’s like I’ve died but I’m still alive,” she told ABC.net. “But I use pride to repress my sadness.”
She recalled how they would start each morning by expressing their love for one another.
“He loved helping others, doing charity work and getting things done,” his wife said. “At midday, we’d text to see if the other had had lunch. In the evening, when he got home, I would ask him how he was.”
Waleeporn also said that her husband was not afraid of death.
“Saman once said we never knew when we would die. We can’t control that, so we need to cherish every day,” she said. “I want to tell you honey, you are the hero in my heart. You always were and you always will be.”
Kunan’s father, Wichai Gunan was also heartbroken over the loss of his son who he said he was “very proud” of.
“But I am very sad too because I love my beloved son,” he told BBC. “May you rest in peace. Rest well. Daddy loves.”
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Kunan was given royally-sponsored funeral rites and a military funeral.
A Thai Buddhist monk led military guards carrying the flag-draped coffin during the repatriation ceremony at Mae Fah Luang international airport in Chiang Rai Province.
Members of the armed forces saluted his coffin before he was flown back to his hometown of Roi Et province.
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