Giffords' astronaut husband honored

Oct. 6, 2011 at 10:29 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords took a break from rehabilitating from a gunshot wound to her head to go to Washington for a ceremony feting her astronaut husband.

The Arizona Democrat attended a retirement ceremony for her husband, Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, hosted by Vice President Joe Biden. Giffords -- who was shot during a public session with constituents in Tucson in January -- was given the honor of putting a medal on Kelly's jacket during a ceremony at the White House, the Houston Chronicle reported.

"Gabby did it better than I did," said Biden, who had some difficulty with the task before Giffords got it done.

Biden praised Giffords, 41, for her recovery from critical gunshot wounds, and Kelly for his ability to train for his fourth and final space shuttle mission while his wife was recovering.

"It's not every day you encounter examples of sheer, sheer courage, selflessness and dedication like you see in this couple," Biden said.

The visit was Giffords' first trip to Washington since Aug. 1, when she surprised House members by showing up to cast a vote in favor of raising the federal debt ceiling.

Mark Kimble, a spokesman for Giffords, said the Arizona congresswoman would only be in Washington "less than 24 hours because she does not want to miss much of her therapy."

Giffords and 18 others people were shot outside a supermarket in Tucson Jan. 8. Six of the victims died.

Kelly formally retired last week after 25 years of service in the U.S. Navy and the space program. Besides his service as an astronaut, Kelly, 47, is a decorated Navy captain who piloted 39 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm.

At his retirement ceremony, Kelly said he wasn't sure what he will do next but he urged the United States to maintain an active space exploration program.

"If the United States of America wants to retain our leading role on this great playing field and inspire our next generation to achieve greatness and make sure the phrase 'reach for the stars' continues to have meaning," he said, "we must give the next generation the same opportunities that come with hard work and a great education that all of us have had."

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