A Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader is making headlines this week for doing something very uncheerleader-like. Rachel Washburn used to shake pom poms, but lately she's been carrying a gun as a soldier in the United States Army. From cheerleader to First Lieutenant.
Not what you'd expect. But that's what makes the Bronze Star awardee so special. Honored by the Eagles at its game on Sunday, the 25-year-old is destroying preconceived notions about members of our military and cheerleaders both.
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Cheerleaders tend to be written off -- unfairly -- as nothing more than eye candy on the sidelines of a football game. Too few look beyond the surface to the woman beneath.
Military heroes tend to be thought of -- also unfairly -- as macho, macho men. Too few consider the number of women putting their lives on the line every day for our country.
Rachel Washburn is one of those women. She's also a smart cookie who went to Drexel University, went through Army ROTC, and yes, shook her pom poms in a sexy uniform on the sidelines of some football games.
She is not one thing or the other. She is the sum of all her parts.
It's wonderful that the Eagles chose to honor her this weekend for her service to her country. Washburn certainly has done much to deserve it. She has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Combat, Airborne, and Air Assault Badges for her service during two tours in Afghanistan. She's one of the first female soldiers in the Army's competitive Cultural Support Team, attached to Special-operations combat forces such as the Army Green Berets, Rangers, and Navy SEALs.
She is to be commended and to be honored, and I'm grateful as an American for her bravery.
But as I woman I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being a little sad that her honor has made such a big splash this week. Read between the lines, and it's clear Rachel Washburn is national news not for what she's accomplished but what she looks like, for what she did before she strapped on a gun and went to war.
Certainly her sudden fame will do wonders for both women in the military, who deserve attention for what THEY do, and for cheerleaders, who deserve to be valued for who they ARE.
But it would be a much nicer world if women on both sides were already being valued; if people realized that women like Rachel Washburn aren't that uncommon.
Watch Rachel talk about her huge career change:
What do you make of the commotion over this cheerleader-turned-soldier?
Image via Philadelphia Eagles