Eagles Cheerleader Traded In Pom Poms To Serve in Afghanistan

Monday, 23 Dec 2013 08:04 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Former Eagles cheerleader Rachel Washburn traded in her pom poms for an M4 carbine tactical rifle when she shifted careers and joined the U.S. Army, having recently completed her second deployment to Afghanistan where she served as a first lieutenant.

On Sunday, the 25-year-old Washburn, who comes from a military family, was honored at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field as an Eagles Hometown Hero.

Washburn, who cheered on the sidelines between the 2007 and 2010 football seasons, told the Eagle's website that she would often accompany special operations forces while in Afghanistan helping to strengthen the military's relationship with Afghan women and children as part of the Army's new Cultural Support Program.

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"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," Washburn told PhiladelphiaEagles.com.

When asked by USA Today how fellow soldiers would react after learning that she was once a cheerleader, Washburn said most were shocked.

"Initially, it was kind of a novelty to people I met if they ever found out," Washburn told USA Today. "It's kind of a bit of a shock. You don't expect those two things to go hand in hand with one person."

The 25-year-old, who earned a Bronze Star during her two tours in Afghanistan, grew up as an Army brat having moved at least a dozen times due to her father having spent time as a pilot in the Army and Air Force, CNN reported.

Washburn's father Lon nominated the former cheerleader turned Army lieutenant for the Eagles honor.

"I watched her go through two tours in Afghanistan and all of the things that she sacrificed," Lon told PhiladelphiaEagles.com. "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 returned from Afghanistan in November. She is currently stationed at Georgia's Fort Stewart.

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