Eagles cheerleader-turned-Army 1st lieutenant Rachel Washburn was honored as a Hometown Hero on Sunday by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Rachel Washburn: Cheerleader-Turned-Soldier

Washburn cheered on the sidelines of Eagles games from 2007 to 2009, while simultaneously attending Drexel University where she was a part of the ROTC program. Upon graduation, Washburn joined the Army and was soon deployed to Afghanistan. In November of this year, she returned from her second tour.

In her first tour to Afghanistan in 2011, Washburn was a member of the Cultural Support Program that the Army was trying out in which female soldiers were asked to engage with Afghan women and children. At the end of the tour, Washburn helped to deliver a baby, receiving instructions over the radio during a snowstorm.

"I was always seen as somebody they could relate to and not this American imposter who brings my values to that country," Washburn told USA Today. "We kind of noticed that women everywhere share certain similarities. They obviously care about their home, their children. Women everywhere love pretty things. So if we wore a pretty head scarf, it would be like an icebreaker."

Rachel Washburn Plans To Continue Military Service

Washburn, whose father served in both the Army and the Air Force as a pilot, was a platoon leader of an intelligence unit for her second tour in Afghanistan. Her experiences on the two tours, including what she’s learned about the issues plaguing women in the military, have encouraged her to consider signing on for a few more years after her service term is up next year. Washburn believes she can be among the women who help to issue in a new standard for women in the military.

Lon Washburn, Rachel’s father, is the one who nominated the former cheerleader for the honor by the Philadelphia Eagles. "I watched her go through two tours in Afghanistan and all of the things that she sacrificed," he said. "It was not a very easy couple of tours and I just really kind of thought, 'Man, what a homecoming that would be if [the Eagles] recognized her for that.'"

– Chelsea Regan

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