Watching the namesake for a United States Naval vessel walk on board isn’t a sight you see often. In fact, only 12 other Navy ships have been named after living people, and Gabrielle Giffords is the 13th.
Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle said, “it’s really been a wonderful honor for me and Austal USA to have her here, and there couldn’t be a better person to name a ship after than Gabby Giffords.
You may remember hearing Giffords’ name in the news several times in 2011. While serving as a U.S Representative, Giffords was at an event in Tucson when she was shot in the head from near point-blank range.
The shooter killed 6 people during his rampage, but Giffords made a miraculous recovery.
“In Congress, I was proud to support our armed forces. I love the Navy. I even married a sailor,” Giffords said from the podium at Saturday’s christening.
As he stood proudly by her side, her husband, former astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, said Giffords’ experience is synonymous with the ship named after her.
“She’s still working very hard on her recovery. She’s coming back, and she’s getting stronger, just like this ship. This is the christening, but the ship isn’t done yet. It’s got a little more work to go before it’s combat ready. It’ll be different in about a year from now, and so will Gabby,” Kelly said.
Not everyone was thrilled when Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced he would name the nation’s 10th Littoral COmbat Ship after Gifford. Critics argued that Gifford didn’t have the military experience that would warrant a ship’s name sake. Naval officers at Saturday’s ceremony couldn’t disagree more.
“I can’t think of a better name! If you want to talk about a ship that’s flexible, versatile, willing to go in harm’s way, You can’t get a better name than Gabrielle Giffords,” said Dennis McGinn, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations, and Environment.
“I don’t see it as a controversial thing at all. Gabby served this country as member of congress and was nearly assassinated doing her job. There are a lot of people who sit at home and they comment on blogs and we try not to listen to it,” Kelly said.
Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, served as the sponsor of the USS Gabrielle Giffords. She broke the ceremonial champagne bottle against the ship’s bow and said she was proud the Navy chose to name the ship after Giffords.
“Wherever the USS Gabrielle Giffords travels, the world will know it is unrelenting. It is unstoppable. It is the full definition of the patriotism that defines the greatest country in the world,” Biden said.