There was a time when Austin Bounsana wanted nothing more than to leave Boise, the place he grew up, and see the world. Now, he says he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
If Austin has learned anything from being in the military and returning to his hometown it’s that, “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, the grass is greenest where you choose to water it,” he said. “It’s all about perspective and when you put time and effort into something then you’ll yield results.”
Only a week after graduating from Borah High School in 2013, Austin made the life changing decision to join the Marine Corps as an infantryman. The thing is, Austin had only briefly considered the military as an option after school, but didn’t know where he wanted to end up. It wasn’t until the recruiting office called Austin after his sister gave them his phone number that the door was opened to him, and he stepped toward it.
“I wouldn’t say I got roped into it because obviously it was my choice, but it definitely wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t called me.” After he answered the call, Austin took the opportunity to dive into service with a drive to see the world.
When Austin was humbly sharing his experience, I got the impression that he’s a determined individual. During our conversation, he told me his story without giving himself credit for the difficult choices, hard work, and rewards he earned from taking this path. Humility, which so many of us see as a common characteristic of veterans, is something I also noticed in Austin.
To go back in time, a day in the life of an infantryman, according to Austin, looks like waking up in the morning to have physical training, then weapons training throughout the day, and a whole lot of waiting around for orders. He said going out into the field was pretty much like camping. The kind of camping where you just sleep on the dirt for weeks at a time.
Austin was initially stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina before deploying on a Black Sea Rotational Force to Eastern Europe and then to Okinawa, Japan.
Three years later, America was entering a time of peace and Austin was released from his contract in 2016. He planned to actively serve for four years, but chose to sign up for the Voluntary Enlisted Early Release Program that lets Marines end their contract a year early. He was basically free to settle anywhere in the country he wanted.
Going into the military “definitely made me appreciate living in Boise,” Austin said, “because most of my life growing up here, I wanted to leave and go see the world and now that I’ve done that, I just want to come back home, which is surprising for me.”
While serving in the Marine Corps, Austin finished two years of college online through the University of Maryland. Then, he moved back to Boise to work before transferring to Boise State in 2021. It was a big adjustment to make since he hadn’t physically attended school since 2013.
“It’s been a rough transition for me,” he said. “Every semester I’ve taken a very heavy course load.”
The 27-year-old came into his first year at Boise State with 17 credits and will be rounding out the fall semester of his second year with 103 credits. This is a big accomplishment for anyone, let alone a student who’s had time away from school. After all of his perseverance, he’s made serious progress towards his degree in integrated media and strategic communications and is on track to graduate in spring 2023.
Austin said that jumping back into school with such a heavy workload is even more challenging since he was diagnosed with type 2 bipolar disorder. Even though Austin recognizes that this is a part of his life, he doesn’t let his diagnosis define him. Living with a mental health condition can be a difficult weight to carry alone which is why Boise State’s counseling services are available to help support students.
“I bite off more than I can chew, but I’m getting through it the best that I can,” he said.
Austin proves that no matter what path you take, you can achieve anything if you put in the work and have the determination to succeed.
After graduating this spring, Austin’s looking forward to applying to the University of Idaho College of Law. He feels that this would be a continuation of service for him, and he’d love to eventually work for the Ada County prosecutor’s office.
“Public service has always been important to me. I think that…it’s important for society,” Austin said. Being in the military significantly reinforced this mindset for him.
Austin embodies the very character of a servant leader and Bronco Nation, Boise, and Idaho are lucky that he made his way back home here to the Treasure Valley.