WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2012 — Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords today heard Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announce that the newest ship in the Navy inventory will be named in her honor.
The Navy’s fifth Independence-variant littoral combat ship, 10th in the LCS series, will be commissioned as the USS Gabrielle Giffords, Mabus said during a ceremony in the Pentagon’s center courtyard.
“You make this occasion special by your presence,” Mabus told Giffords. “What you did in Congress for our military, and for those who serve in it, gave substance to what America feels for those in uniform.”
Littoral combat ships are a major part of the Navy’s future, capable of “an amazing variety of missions,” and one of the sea service’s most versatile, valuable ships, the secretary said.
“The name this ship bears, and the story represented by that name, will inspire all those who come in contact with her,” he said, noting that Giffords serves as a living example of the Navy’s motto of “Semper Fortis” — “Always Courageous.”
“Unwavering courage has defined the Navy for 236 years, and it is what we expect and what we demand from our sailors every single day,” Mabus said. “So it’s very appropriate that LCS 10 be named for someone who has become synonymous with courage, who has inspired the nation … and showed the possibilities of the human spirit.”
Giffords was shot in the head in an apparent assassination attempt during a public event in Tucson, Ariz., in January 2011. She was one of 13 people wounded, while six others were killed. She is a Navy spouse whose husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, retired from the Navy in 2011. Giffords stepped down from her seat representing Arizona’s 8th congressional district in January, saying she needed time to recover.
Mabus also announced today the ship’s sponsor will be Roxanna Green. Green, who also attended the ceremony, is the mother of Christina-Taylor Green, a 9-year-old girl who was killed at the event where Giffords was shot.
Mabus explained that a ship’s sponsor christens the vessel with champagne at its launch and gives the order to bring the ship to life when it is commissioned.
Christina-Taylor Green had just been elected to the student council and wanted to become “a more active participant in our democracy,” the secretary said.
“Roxanna Green continues to express her daughter’s hope for the future,” Mabus added, “and as the president said, of ‘a nation as good as she imagined.’”
Giffords and Green “will be a part of the life of this ship, and our Navy’s history,” he said.
Kelly and former Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton, former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, also were present at today’s ceremony. They, along with Giffords and Green, met with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and other DOD leaders before the event.
Earlier today, President Barack Obama signed into law Giffords’ last piece of legislation, the Ultralight Aircraft Smuggling Prevention Act of 2012.
“This bill gives our nation’s law enforcement expanded authority to combat illicit drug trafficking on our Northern and Southern borders,” Obama said. “Being able to sign it next to my friend Gabby Giffords gives me enormous pride.”
The president added while the legislation may have been her last act as a congresswoman, “it will not be her last act of public service.”
The LCS 10 is part of a dual block buy of LCS-class ships Mabus announced in December 2010. The ship will be 419 feet long, have a waterline beam of 103 feet, displace about 3,000 tons, and will make speed in excess of 40 knots.
Littoral combat ships are designed to operate in near-shore environments against “anti-access” threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft. The ships are also capable of open-ocean operation.
The LCS class consists of two variants, the Freedom and the Independence, designed and built by teams led, respectively, by Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)