"I want to tell the guys that I miss them and that I want to hug them", Wild Boars teammate Supaghid Pragaihong told news agency Agence France-Presse.
After 18 days, Thai Navy SEALS, government officials, and countless private companies helped orchestrate a rescue that brought each of the trapped soccer players and their coach to safety.
A Thai artist has promised to create a statue of Samarn to be erected in Chiang Rai province, where the Tham Luang cave is situated. Officials initially anxious they could remain trapped for months.
"Samarn Kunan is the real hero", Narongsak Osottanakorn said.
Retired Coventry firefighter Rick Stanton, 56, said: "It seems to have lifted the whole country".
British divers Richard Stanton, left, and John Volanthen at the base camp for the rescue operation last week.
The British divers who found the boys also had a helper inside the cave: A student who was able to take a leadership role by translating for them.
Two days after 12 boys and their soccer coach disappeared inside a cave complex in Thailand's mountainous north, a team of Thai Royal Navy SEALs headed before sunrise into the pitch-black maze of muddy passages to find them.
The 12 Thai boys and their coach before they went into the cave.
The group had entered the sprawling Tham Luang cave to go exploring after soccer practice on June 23, but monsoon rains filled the tight passageways, blocking their escape, and pushing them deeper inside in search of a refuge. They will tell their own story when they are ready, but they are very lucky.
Arriving at Heathrow Airport on Thursday, Mr Volanthen said it was a "relief" but played down his heroics.
Mr Jewell said: "The diving conditions were extremely challenging, there was poor visibility and responsibility for another human being's life".
"I do off-shore work and can live in a chamber for 28 days, but it is totally different to this".
Pushing a cart stacked with his luggage, Volanthen paused to speak with reporters about the rescue mission.
Adisak Wongsukchan told Al Jazeera he gave his 14-year-old son Nong Bew a big thumbs up when he first saw him in hospital.
"We worked until we forgot the time", said Captain Anan Surawan, chief of the 1st Special Forces Regiment. "The results speak for themselves", he added.
All 12 of the boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach were brought to safety over the course of a three-day rescue organised by Thai Navy Seals and an global team of diving and caving experts, including 11 from Britain, that ended on Tuesday. "That won't happen or we'll give them hell", Chu tweeted, adding it's "a attractive story" about human beings saving other human beings.
"We were very relieved that they were all alive but I think at that point we realised the enormity of the situation and that's perhaps why it took a while to get them all out".
Another diver, Jason Mallinson, 50, from Huddersfield, said the team left messages for the children as they flew back to the United Kingdom saying: "We're very glad we could get you out alive".
"Very good. The best - not good - the very best". The managing director, who is married to a Thai woman who knew the former Navy SEAL that died on the mission, said it could be a movie that "inspires millions" and that he sees it being a "major Hollywood film with A-list stars".