Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is getting a Navy combat ship named after her — the first living woman since Martha Washington to be the namesake of a Naval warship.
She’ll be joined by some other trailblazing women at the commissioning of the U.S.S. Gabrielle Giffords Saturday in Galveston,Texas: former secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former second lady Jill Biden will attend the ceremony.
“I would say it’s probably the biggest honor of her career. She says that, but I would agree. It’s a really big deal to Gabby and she’s very touched by it, and you know, will probably think about this ship every day of her life and the people who sail aboard her," Mark Kelly, Giffords' husband, retired Navy combat veteran and NASA astronaut, told USA TODAY. "Ships named after living people are pretty rare. Right now, she’s in company with President Jimmy Carter and President George H.W. Bush — that’s it."
Giffords and was shot during a constituent event in Tucson, Ariz., in 2011. She survived the assassination attempt, but it left her disabled and she resigned from her seat in Congress. On the same day she announced her retirement, then-Navy secretary Ray Mabus told her the Navy planned to name a warship in her honor.
Kelly said having to resign from Congress was difficult for Giffords — "she loved being a member of Congress" — but that the news of the ship's name "made the day a little bit better."
According to Kelly, Mabus said, "Gabby represents somebody in our country that has showed a lot of resilience and fortitude and the ability to get back up when knocked down. You know, somebody who is willing to fight back when things aren't going their way and those are qualities of the United States Navy."
“She was very badly injured I have no criticism of her whatsoever — only praise for her service of the country,” Arizona Sen. John McCain told The Republic. McCain is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and was a navy war pilot in Vietnam who was captured and held as a prisoner of war for more than five years.
The district that Gifford’s represented has a large military presence and Giffords served on the House Armed Services Committee when she was in Congress. That seat is now held by GOP Rep. Martha McSally, who was the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat.