Warship named for former Rep. Giffords to be commissioned in Galveston

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She pulled into the Galveston pier on Saturday following about a month at sea, after launching from Mobile, Alabama.

The Navy’s newest littoral combat ship, at 421 feet long, is designed to take on coastal threats like submarines and mines and dominate those waters. Fast.

The USS Gabrielle Giffords will be officially commissioned on Saturday at Galveston’s Pier 21, honoring the former congresswoman who survived a 2011 assassination attempt.

The city will allow visitors and residents on board the ship this week in advance of the ceremony. Public tours of the vessel start Tuesday afternoon and will continue through Friday.

Giffords was serving her third term as an Arizona congresswoman when a gunman opened fire on a crowd assembled for a constituents’ meeting. Six people died, and 13 people were injured, including Giffords, who was shot in the head. She spent several months at TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston.

Giffords resigned her seat in 2012 to focus on rehabilitation, and shortly after she learned that the Navy ship would be named in her honor. The $475-million vessel will be the 16th naval ship to be named after a woman and the 13th to have been named since 1850 after a living person, according to the Navy.

The former congresswoman posted to Twitter that she was “so excited” to be with the ship’s crew in Galveston for the commissioning. After the ceremony, the ship will set off for San Diego, its homeport.

“That our Navy chose to give my name to this ship is an incredibly humbling honor – one I would never have imagined, one I will never forget, and one for which I always remain grateful,” Giffords told the New York Times. “When we celebrate the commissioning this weekend, I will be thinking of the thousands of hardworking Americans who built this ship and the brave men and women who will serve aboard her.”

Giffords’ husband, astronaut and retired U.S. Navy captain Mark Kelly, was stationed in Galveston County during his NASA service for more than 15 years.

“Her service on the armed services committee for the two and half terms she served on Congress was very, very important to her,” Kelly said at an event in March. “So to have the (ship) named after her, I gotta say, I think it’s, to date, one of the highlights of her life.”

The ship’s motto is “Je Suis Prest,” or “I Am Ready,” a phrase emblazoned on Giffords’ family coat of arms.

Adm. William Moran, vice chief of naval operations, will speak at Saturday’s ceremony. Jill Biden, who christened the ship in June 2015, will serve as the ship’s sponsor.

Saturday’s ceremony will take place at 12 p.m.

Alex Meyer contributed to this report.

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