Former Eagles Cheerleader Honored After Returning from Afghanistan

Alex Hall@@AlexKHallCorrespondent IIIDecember 23, 2013

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 01:  The Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders perform during the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Lincoln Financial Field on December 1, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeat the Cardinals 24-21. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Eagles might have defeated Chicago 54-11 in Week 16, but there was something bigger to celebrate at Lincoln Financial Field on Dec. 22. Former team cheerleader and U.S. Army First Lieutenant Rachel Washburn was honored as a hometown hero by the Eagles after her second tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Washburn cheered for Philadelphia from 2007-2010 and enlisted in the Army after graduating from Drexel University in 2011. She was deployed for her first tour of Afghanistan that same year.

Rachel's father, Lon Washburn, nominated his daughter for the honor from her former team.

Lon explained why he nominated his daughter to Alex Smith of the Eagles' official website, saying:

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 they recognized her for that"

Lon is also familiar with the military. He served in the Army and Air Force over his career. During her father's time in service, Rachel moved 17 different times during her childhood before coming to Philadelphia for college. Lon told Smith that Drexel was his daughter's No. 1 choice for school.

Rachel followed in her father's footsteps after graduation and was part of the Army's Cultural Support Team during her time overseas.

"The Cultural Support Team was an initiative created by the military to fulfill a tactical gap in Afghanistan, given the cultural restrictions," Washburn told Smith.

Part of her role as a member of the Army Cultural Support Team was to go on operations and search for and talk to Afghan women and children.

"I was always seen as somebody they could relate to and not this American imposter who brings my values to that country," she told Gary Mihoces of USA Today.

By Washburn's count, she has earned awards such as the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Combat Action Badge, Airborne Badge and the Air Assault Badge so far in her career.

While Washburn was excited to be honored by her former team, she told Kenneth Moton of ABC 6 in Philadelphia: "I'm incredibly humbled and a little embarrassed by it, because there is certainly nothing special about my service more than any other service member."

Washburn has only been back in the U.S. for a few days and has about a year left in the Army but told Mihoces she is considering signing up for a few more.

"There are some opportunities that are enticing me," she said.