Thai soccer team rescued from cave to become novice Buddhist monks

The young Thai soccer team whose dramatic evacuation from a cave captured the world’s attention took their first steps in becoming novice Buddhist monks on Tuesday, in a ceremony intended to honor their rescuers.

Eleven of the 12 team members who were trapped in the cave system for more than three weeks attended an pre-ordination ceremony on Tuesday morning, before their initiation was completed at a second event in the afternoon.

12 boys and their soccer coach trapped in a Thai cave for more than a week were found alive.

The gesture was meant to honor Lt. Cmdr. Saman Kunan, a former Thai Navy SEAL who died during the cave rescue operation on July 6.

One of their teammates, Adul Sam-on, is a Christian and instead attended a local church to perform a separate ceremony.

The others will begin their week-long stint as Buddhist novices from Wednesday morning, when they will have their heads shaved. The practice is considered a high honor in Thailand.

They will leave the monastery and return to civilian life on August 3.

The members of the Wild Boars were only released from hospital in the last week, after being rescued from a waterlogged cave by an international team of divers while the world watched.

The group went in on June 23 and were missing for 10 days, before being discovered trapped inside the cave system.

Two of their rescuers, Australian divers Craig Challen and Richard Harris, were awarded the Star of Courage by the Australian government in a ceremony on Tuesday.