From Cheerleader To Soldier

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Rachel Washburn walks through a village while serving one of two military tours in Afghanistan. Washburn is a Bronze Star recipient and 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.

This story has been trending all weekend – a young cheerleader has traded in her pom poms to serve her country. Rachel Washburn once carried pom poms but now she carries a M4 Carbine. Washburn grew up as a military child but when she got older she decided to go the Cheerleading route and went on to be a cheerleader in the NFL and now she’s a First Lieutenant in the United States Army.

On Sunday she was honored as a hometown hero by the Philadelphia Eagles which is the team she cheered for from 2007-2009. Washburn served two tours of duty in Afghanistan including one as a member of the Army’s new “Cultural Support Program”.

It was a dangerous and intense job, where she would go on missions with special operations forces and help search and talk to Afghan women and children.

In a statement Rachel said

“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,”

How does one stay positive in a situation like that? Washburn (25) said during her army training she learned to think of a happy place when she was confronted by stress. She said she would think back to her first game as a Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleader. It was a sunny day in August and she was lined up excited and ready for the game – she says it’s one of her best memories.

Washburn told USA today that she is considering re-enlisting again next year. Her father was the one who nominated her for the Eagles honor award, he said

“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.”

Washburn returned from Afghanistan in November and is now stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia.

– Dallas Jordan

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