At a news conference Wednesday, rescued soccer players discuss being trapped for days in a cave. (Vincent Thian/AP)

The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued from a cave in Thailand left the hospital and appeared at a news conference Wednesday, saying the experience had given them strength.

“I feel stronger, I have more patience, endurance, tolerance,” said 13-year-old Mongkol Boonpiam.

The group, looking healthy, sat with doctors and members of the Thai navy SEAL unit who helped rescue them.

The boys, ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach spoke about lessons they learned during their experience.

Adul Samon, a 14-year-old member of the group, said that this experience taught him not to live life carelessly.

“I want to be a navy SEAL because I want to help others,” said another boy.


Two of the boys hold a portrait of Thai navy SEAL Saman Kunan, who died in the Tham Luang cave rescue operation. (Pongmanat Tasiri/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Several said they want to become professional soccer players, while four said they wanted to be like the heroes who saved them.

All said they want to apologize to their parents, most of whom did not know the boys were going to the cave after soccer practice.

“I am in big trouble with my mother,” one of the boys said.

Doctors said the 13 were healthy. They said the boys have gained an average of six pounds since they were rescued last week. They were said to have lost an average of nine pounds while they were trapped in the cave. The boys entered the Tham Luang cave June 23 for what was to be a quick activity after soccer practice. But rain began falling while they were underground, and water filled the caverns, cutting off their exit.

Two British divers found the group huddling on a spot of dry ground deep inside the cave nearly 10 days later, hungry but generally healthy. An international team of rescuers using diving equipment and pulleys guided the boys and their coach through the tight, flooded passageways over three days, ending their mission July 10.

Banphot Konkum, an uncle who has raised 13-year-old Duangpetch Promthep, said the teen will have a redecorated bedroom and gifts awaiting him.

“We’ll do whatever he wants. If he wants anything, we’ll buy it for him as a present as we promised that when he gets out, whatever he wants we’ll do it for him,” Banphot said.

— Associated Press