On Sunday night, the Philadelphia Eagles will honor one of their own, a former cheerleader who has served two tours in Afghanistan as an Army intelligence officer.
Rachel Washburn, age 25, hasn't had a typical career path, to put it mildly. She joined the Eagles' cheerleading squad from 2007 to 2009 while a student at Drexel University. After graduation, she joined the Army and participated in paratrooper training while ultimately following a path into military intelligence.
Washburn, now a 1st lieutenant based out of Fort Stewart, Ga., served as part of a Cultural Support Team designed to attach women to existing special ops units with the express purpose of relating more effectively to local women.
"I was always seen as somebody they could relate to and not this American imposter who brings my values to that country," Washburn told USA Today. "We kind of noticed that women everywhere share certain similarities. They obviously care about their home, their children. Women everywhere love pretty things. So if we wore a pretty head scarf, it would be like an icebreaker."
Among her more notable achievements, Washburn helped deliver a baby in a snowstorm. She indicated that her awards included the Bronze Star Medal, an Army Commendation Medal, a Combat Action Badge, an Airborne Badge and an Air Assault Badge.
Washburn has approximately one year left on her obligation to the Army, but indicated she may extend her service to address other issues such as gender equality.
The Eagles will honor Washburn as part of their "Hometown Heroes" program during Sunday night's game against Chicago.