EAGLES TO HONOR FORMER CHEERLEADER-TURNED-SOLDIER - During every home game this season, the Philadelphia Eagles have honored a hometown hero. The idea is for the team to honor an Eagles fan who also serves in the military. This Sunday’s home finale will be a little different though because the Eagles won’t be honoring a fan in the military, they’ll be honoring a former Eagles cheerleader who left the squad in 2009 and later joined the military.

Rachel Washburn, 25, is a former Eagles’ cheerleader who is set to be honored this weekend as a Hometown Hero during the Eagles-Bears game for serving two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

According to USA Today, Washburn was a freshman at Drexel University when a friend, who was a cheerleader for the Philadelphia 76ers, convinced her to try out for the Eagles cheerleading squad. 

After she made the cut, Washburn made a trip to Kuwait in 2008 as part of a military goodwill tour with the Eagles cheerleading squad and that’s when she decided that maybe she wanted to make the Army a bigger part of her life, “Getting to actually talk to people who are in the military and doing their jobs day in and day out was very eye-opening,” Washburn said. 

Joining the Army wasn’t Washburn’s first taste of military life. Her father was a Army helicopter pilot and Air Force Fighter pilot.

As an Army intelligence officer with a special ops combat unit in Afghanistan, she carried an assault rifle and pistol. She was a pioneer in a special mission to relate to local women in ways that would be culturally inappropriate for male troops — including helping deliver an Afghan baby in a snowstorm.

During her two tours, Washburn became a very decorated solider. She has received the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Combat Action Badge, Airborne Badge and Air Assault Badge.

With just over one year of service left in the Army, Washburn says she’s thinking about more, “There are some opportunities that are enticing me,” she said. (Photo: Rachel Washburn/Facebook)