Eagles cheerleader turned soldier Rachel Washburn was honored as a “Hometown Hero” by the Philadelphia Eagles at their home game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, according to a Dec. 22 CNN News report. The former cheerleader is currently a first lieutenant in the United States Army, and is a Bronze star recipient who has served two tours of duty in Afghanistan.
The Army Times reports that the Army intelligence officer was an Army ROTC student and history major at Drexel University during her tenure with the Eagles. It runs in her blood. Her father was both an Army pilot and an Air Force fighter pilot.
Barbara Zaun, the director of Cheerleading for the Eagles articulated her pride for the former pompom queen, who cheered for the team from 2007 to 2009. “I am so proud of Rachel and all of her extraordinary accomplishments. She has tremendous courage and has made an amazing impact on the lives of others,” said Barbara Zaun, Eagles director of cheerleading.
Prior to her first tour in Afghanistan in 2011-12, Washburn was part of a new “Cultural Support Team” program to attach women to special ops units to relate to Afghan women. “I was always seen as somebody they could relate to and not this American imposter who brings my values to that country,” she said.
Opining on wearing a head scarf when among the Afghans, Washburn noted, “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 ice breaker.”
Washburn’s proud father nominated her for the honor, CNN reports. “I watched her go through two tours in Afghanistan and all of the things that she sacrificed. 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.’”
Washburn has earned several military awards and decorations including, the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Combat Action Badge, Airborne Badge and Air Assault Badge.