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New Navy ship named after Gabrielle Giffords

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, attend a ceremony at the Pentagon, Friday, Feb. 10, for the unveiling of the USS Gabrielle Giffords.

The Navy on Friday named its newest combat ship after former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who attended the Pentagon event with the mother of a 9-year-old girl slain in the Tucson shooting rampage that left Giffords gravely wounded.

The 3,000-ton ship, known as an Independence Variant Littoral, will be built in Mobile, Ala., by Austal shipbuilding, as part of the Navy’s strategy to provide access and dominance in coastal waters, according to NBC News.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus made the announcement before a gathering at the Pentagon’s Center Courtyard. "It's a major part of the future of our Navy," he said about the vessel, which measures 419 feet in length and can travel in excess of 40 knots. "She's going to provide our Navy and country with fast and flexible capability ... this ship can perform an amazing variety of missions."

Mabus said courage has defined the Navy since it's inception, so it made sense to name the ship after someone "who has become synonymous with courage."

Giffords, a Democrat, resigned from Congress last month to focus on her recovery from a gunshot wound to the head after a gunman opened fire in January 2011 with a semiautomatic pistol on a crowd gathered outside a Tucson supermarket for a Congress-on-your-Corner event. Six people were killed and 13 people, including Giffords, were wounded.

Since then, Giffords has been undergoing intensive rehabilitation in Houston.   

Charged in the shooting is Jared Loughner, who is undergoing psychiatric treatment at a federal prison in Missouri in an effort to restore his mental competency so he can stand trial.

Christina Green, an elementary school student, was attending the event with a neighbor when she was gunned down. The elementary school student was born on Sept. 11, 2001, and had been featured in a book about children from the 50 states born on that day.

At the Pentagon, Mabus named Green's mother, Roxanna Green, as the sponsor of the new ship, which will be in service for three decades once completed.

Earlier on Friday, Giffords was at the White House as President Barack Obama signed into law the legislation she authored that will  increase the penalties for using ultralight aircraft when smuggling drugs into the country.

"I'm confident that, while this legislation may have been her last act as a congresswoman, it will not be her last act of public service," Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

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