Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt in 2011 that led to her resignation from Congress, received touching tributes Saturday from female politicians and military officials at a commissioning ceremony for a warship named after her.
With the naming of the littoral combat ship, the Arizona Democrat became the first living woman to have a Navy warship bear her name since the Lady Washington was named after Martha Washington in 1776; and Giffords is only the third living woman in US history to see her name on a naval vessel.
“The U.S.S Gabrielle Giffords is strong and tough just like her crew,” Giffords said in a brief speech. “Despite danger, you say ‘yes.’ You make me proud, you make America proud. I will never forget this day or this crew.”
Courage, perseverance and commitment to service were among the words several used to describe Giffords at the ceremony in Galveston, Texas, which featured remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former second lady Jill Biden and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
“Just as the motto ‘I am ready’ represents the ship, it represents Gabby Giffords,” Clinton said in her speech to attendees.
“We all know what happened to Congresswoman Giffords,” Clinton continued. “But she came out of that experience with grace and faith … and time and time again, she has stood up ready to keep moving forward to persevere with her trademark humor, kindness and relentless optimism.”
Biden, who also spoke at the ship’s christening in 2015, said the navy “chose wisely” in naming the combat ship after Giffords.
Giffords is here “because she refused to let the tragedy overshadow the ideals that define her and the lives lost five years ago,” Biden said Saturday. “Honor, courage, commitment, that’s why we are here, to give full meaning to these ideals, so that whenever the U.S.S. Gabrielle Giffords travels, the world will know that it is unstoppable, and it is the full definition of a patriotism that defines the greatest most powerful country in the world.”
After the shooting, which occurred at a constituent event in Tuscon, Giffords was left disabled, and she resigned from her seat in Congress in January 2012. That same day, then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told her of plans to name a ship after her, which occurred at the Pentagon the next month.
Others in attendance Saturday included a handful of Democratic lawmakers, including California Reps. Nanette Barragán and Susan Davis, Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum and Florida Rep. Kathy Castor, as well as actress Olivia Munn.
“Excited to celebrate the commissioning of the #USSGabrielleGiffords with my amazing friends @GabbyGiffords & @ShuttleCDRKelly!! #USSGG,” Munn tweeted on Friday.
“Honored to attend the Commissioning Ceremony of the USS Gabrielle Giffords #USSGG @GabbyGiffords!,” Barragán tweeted.
Giffords’ husband Mark Kelly, a retired Navy captain, combat veteran and NASA astronaut who, along with her, founded the gun-control group Americans for Responsible Solutions in 2013, also delivered remarks, .
“Those of you know who know Gabby best know what connects her most to the U.S.S Gabrielle Giffords is not the 418 feet of gray metal,” he said. “It’s not her top speed … not her shallow draft. … It’s not even Gabby’s name emblazoned on the back. It’s simply this: It’s the crew — the men and women and their shared commitment to a value more American than any other … that is service.”