Former Thai navy SEAL is first casualty of rescue effort


BANGKOK (AP) — A former member of the Thai navy's elite SEAL unit who volunteered to help his old comrades in their risky mission to evacuate a dozen boys and their soccer coach trapped in a cave has become the first casualty of the massive rescue effort.

The death of former Petty Officer 1st Class Saman Gunan early this morning during an underwater swim in the partly flooded cave struck a particularly deep chord with Thais, because he was a volunteer on a humanitarian mission that has riveted the nation's attention for two weeks. And as is the case with elite military units all over the world, Thailand's SEALs were quick to pay their own heartfelt tribute to their fallen friend.

"See you in Chiang Rai," was the can-do salutation in a memorial message from other retired SEALs that was forwarded to their buddies in active service at the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in northern Thailand.

"The determination and dedication of Saman will always be in all of our frogmen hearts. Today Saman rests. We will complete this mission, just as Saman intended," they vowed, signing off with a battle cheer adopted from the U.S. Navy: "Hooyah Hooyah Hooyah."

The statement said that Saman was a member of their 30th class who resigned to work as a security officer at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport since 2006.

"He is a SEAL member who had knowledge, skill, was an athletic triathlon, and enjoyed adventure sports," it said. "Even when he left the department, he still loved and bonded with his SEAL team brothers, no matter what activity the SEAL team held, Saman would always participate in activities, right until his last minute."

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