USS Gabrielle Giffords

February 11, 2012 by staff 

USS Gabrielle Giffords, The Navy on Friday honored the fighting spirit of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords by naming a warship after her.

Giffords’ inspiring story of survival after being shot in the head last year and her ties to the Navy — her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, was a Navy captain — prompted Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to name a Littoral Combat Ship the USS Gabrielle Giffords.

Giffords “has become synonymous for courage, who has inspired the nation with remarkable resiliency and showed the possibilities of the human spirit,” Mabus said. “The name the ship bears and the story represented by that name will inspire all those who come in contact with this ship.”

Giffords and Kelly attended a short naming ceremony at the Pentagon, but neither of them spoke.

Clad in a bright-red jacket, the smiling Giffords sang along as a service member sang the national anthem and exclaimed loudly when a poster of the vessel to bear her name was unveiled. Giffords leaned on Mabus while walking and dragged her right foot — evidence that she has not yet fully recovered.

The USS Gabrielle Giffords, which is yet to be built, will be an Independence class ship.

Funded in the 2012 budget, its construction contract is expected to be awarded in the first half of this year to Austal USA in Mobile, Ala.

The Navy did not say when the ship will be ready. In December, the Navy awarded defense contractor Lockheed Martin and Austal USA contracts to build up to 10 ships.

Littoral Combat Ships operate close to shore in shallow waters, where large warships can’t operate, but are versatile enough to be deployed in deep water, the Navy said. The 419-foot vessels are fast, capable of reaching speeds of 40 knots, which is about 46 miles per hour.

Roxanna Green, whose 9-year-old daughter Christina-Taylor Green was killed in the shooting, was named the ship’s sponsor. The shooting occurred during a constituent event Giffords was hosting at a Tuscon grocery store.

Giffords, who resigned on Jan. 25, also was in Washington to attend a ceremony at the White House, where President Barack Obama signed her final measure into law.

The measure, which passed the House 428-0 the day she stepped down, stiffens penalties for drug smugglers who use ultra-light aircraft to ferry drugs across the southern border with Mexico and northern border with Canada.

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