Ex-congresswoman who was gunned down by Jared Loughner in 2011 attends commissioning of $475m navy vessel
The US navys newest combat ship, the USS Gabrielle Giffords, has gone into service carrying the name of the former Arizona congresswoman who was injured in a 2011 shooting.
Giffords told a crowd at the ceremony in the Texas Gulf coast city of Galveston that she was honored the 421ft ship will carry her name and the vessel is strong and tough, just like her crew.
I thought of you in my darkest days, the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines of the United States of America You make me proud. You make America proud, Giffords said, as she stood next to her husband, the former astronaut Mark Kelly, who was in the navy. Kelly lived in Galveston county when he was stationed at Johnson Space Center in suburban Houston during his Nasa service.
Speakers including Hillary Clinton said Giffordss strength and courage made her worthy of being the namesake of the ship, the USS Gabrielle Giffords. Nothing gives me greater joy and honor than seeing this great ship named for someone whose strength and resilience is a great lesson to us all, Clinton said.
Others who attended the ceremony included House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, former vice-president Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden, who served as the ships sponsor.
The navy said it named the ship after Giffords because of the perseverance she showed after the shooting.
Giffords was shot in the head at a meet-and-greet event outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011. Six people died and Giffords was among 13 injured. The killer, Jared Loughner, was sentenced to life in prison. Giffords has paralysis and language difficulties because of the shooting.
Giffords helped christen the $475m ship in 2015. It is the ninth in a series of high-speed vessels designed to navigate in shallow coastal regions known as littoral waters. It is the 13th navy ship named after a living person since 1850 and the 16th named for a woman. The ship will be based in San Diego.
I will never forget this day or the crew of the USS Gabrielle Giffords. Fair winds and following seas, Giffords said.