The Navy on Friday announced it would name a combat ship after former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who resigned from Congress last month to recover from a grievous gunshot wound she suffered in January 2011.
“The name this ship bears … will inspire all those who come in contact with her,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said during a brief 2 p.m. ceremony in the Pentagon’s central courtyard.
“Wow! Awesome!” exclaimed Mrs. Giffords, 41, who attended the event.
Also in attendance were her husband, retired Navy Capt. and astronaut Mark Kelly; former Rep. Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat; and Roxanna Green, whose 9-year-old daughter, Christina, was killed in the same shooting in which Mrs. Giffords was wounded.
“We’re honored,” Mrs. Green, who will be the ship’s sponsor, told The Washington Times. “I know my daughter is looking down from heaven and she’s so excited.”
The ship that will bear Mrs. Giffords’ name is the fifth Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship — a very fast surface vessel intended for close-to-shore operations. It is 419 feet long and can reach speeds in excess of 40 knots.
Mrs. Giffords, Arizona Democrat, is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head she received Jan. 8, 2011, during a political event near Tucson. More than a dozen others were wounded and six were killed, including Christina.
Jared Lee Loughner faces 49 federal counts, including murder and attempted murder, in the shooting.
However, critics of the ship’s new name have left a barrage of disapproving comments on Mr. Mabus’ Facebook page.
“Although I admire Giffords’ courage, I don’t feel that the naming of LCS 10 after her is appropriate by any means. How about a ship named after Marcus Lutrell? Is he not a sailor who possess more unwavering courage than Giffords? How about the countless other service members who embody the Navy Core Values? What about them and their honor of service and sacrifice to America?” read one.
“Booooooo, I can name lots of deceased soldiers killed in the line of duty … was Giffords even a veteran?” read another.
“It isn’t just that they threw out the naming conventions for LCS-10 — but they did it for a person who is still alive and the only real connection she had to the Navy was that her husband was an astronaut and she was shot in the head by an insane person. Nothing against Rep. Giffords, she is/was a good Congresswoman,” a retired Navy commander who runs the blog “Cdr. Salamander,” told The Washington Times.
“That being said — if we are going to break naming conventions to name LCS after people — there are legion of U.S. Navy and Marine Corps holders of the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross who gave their lives in combat serving their nation. There are hundreds to thousands of people who have more of a reason to have a warship named after them than Rep. Giffords. Ditto for Rep. Murtha,” he said, referring to the late Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat.
Navy spokeswoman Capt. Pamela Kunze said that the Secretary of the Navy receives input on ship-naming from “many, many sources” — from inside the department and from people simply calling on the phone.
She said typically ships are named after people, locations and battlefields.
But with any naming convention, she said, “Ultimately the one thing you can be certain of, if you look at the names, there’s always exceptions.”