U.S. Army 1st Lt. and Bronze Star recipient, Rachel Washburn served two tours in Afghanistan including one as a member of the Army’s new Cultural Support Program. She is a former Philadelphia Eagles NFL cheerleader from 2007 to 2009.
Washburn, who was raised in a military family, is a graduate of Drexel University in Philadelphia.
On Sunday, she was honored as a Hometown Hero by the Philadelphia Eagles, the team she cheered for from 2007 to 2009.
It was a dangerous and stressful job, where she would go on missions with special operations forces and help search and talk to Afghan women and children.
“We could be their voice during missions for engagement to ensure security on objectives, and we could help search and secure the females and the children during missions,” she told the Philadelphia Eagles website.
Spoken like a true soldier — which is not surprising given her father, Lon, served many years in the Army and Air Force as a pilot.
Rachel Washburn, 25, said she learned during her Army training to think of a happy place when confronted by stress. For that, she liked to think of her first game as an Eagles cheerleader. It was a beautiful August day and she was lined up for the pregame dance. It is one of her best memories, she said.
She also recalled fondly her trips to hospitals in Philadelphia and a USO trip to Iraq. Cheerleading is more than just dancing on the sideline and looking pretty, she said.
“We’re all beautiful women who are there to be entertaining at games, but also, we are incredibly involved in the community, which is something that I am incredibly proud of,” she told the Eagles.
After she graduated, Washburn joined the Army and went to Afghanistan, where near the end of her first tour she helped deliver a baby during a snowstorm while communicating with medical personnel by radio.
She told USA Today that during her second tour she was a platoon leader of an intelligence unit. She is considering re-enlisting next year, she told the paper.
According to the reports her father nominated her for the Eagles honor.
“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.'”
She returned from Afghanistan in November and is stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia.