Saturday’s commissioning of the USS Gabrielle Giffords was more than five years in the making and brought out dignitaries such Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and the ship’s namesake.
Hometown business tycoon Tilman Fertitta kicked off the ceremony honoring former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the ship that now bears her name.
“I can tell you, there’s nobody more deserving,” Fertitta said.
He told the crowd that, when the Navy decided to name a ship after Giffords in 2012, he sat down with her and her husband, retired astronaut and sailor Mark Kelly, to figure out where to hold the ceremony.
“There are only two places to do it: Arizona or Galveston, Texas,” said Fertitta. “We weren’t going to do it in Arizona.”
In 2011, Giffords was one of more than a dozen shot while she met with constituents in Tuscon. A year of recovery, which included time in Houston, led to her retirement the next year.
“Gabrielle, it would have been a pleasure to serve with you in the House of Representatives,” said Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas). “I came in after you left. But I tell you what, I’m extremely grateful to be here with you today.”
Photos: U.S. Navy commissions USS Gabrielle Giffords in Galveston
“This wonderful lady is inspiration to every single one of us in uniform and every single one of us who lives in this great country,” said Admiral William Moran. “We are so proud to be part of Gabrielle Giffords’ legacy in the United States Navy.”
Former Secretary of State Clinton introduced Giffords, describing her as a fighter.
“That’s why it is so fitting that this new, dynamic, extraordinary ship be named for the former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords,” Clinton said. “As [the crew] take this ship over the horizon, they, like all of us, will continue to be inspired by the life and example of Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Giffords.”
Giffords attended Saturday’s event with Kelly. Though others focused on her, Giffords’ attention was on the 70 sailors who will staff her namesake.
“You make me proud, you make America proud,” she told them. “I will never forget this day or the crew of the USS Gabrielle Giffords.”
The Navy decided to name the ship after Gifford's in 2012. Only the fourth of its kind, it is an Independence-variant littoral combat ship.
CHECK IT OUT: Go inside the USS Gabrielle Giffords
“Like Gabby, this ship will face down some lethal threats. But it will persevere through that adversity,” said Kelly. “It will leave our lesser adversaries in her great, giant wake.”
With ship sponsor Jill Biden's command, the USS Gabrielle Giffords officially joined the U.S. Navy’s fleet.
Now its captain says its crew is tasked with living up to her strength and courage.
“You put a lot of pressure on me, ma’am. A lot of pressure,” Commander Keith Woodley told Giffords. “I have to make sure this ship lives up to its namesake.”
Though it was commissioned here in Galveston, the ship’s home port is in San Diego. The crew will leave on Monday.