July 04 2017
Earlier this week, the Navy commissioned USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) and much ado was made over the fact that she was named after a living person. I could point out that Carl Vinson, also a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was still living when he had an aircraft carrier named after him but I suspect, based on tweets and comments left on news articles, that it wouldn’t matter.
“USS Gabrielle Giffords became the 16th ship to be named for a woman and only the 13th ship to be named for a living person since 1850.”
I find the negativity disappointing and frustrating, especially because it detracts from the fact that this is the first ship to be named for a Navy spouse. The first! According to Blue Star Families, the unemployment rate for military spouses is 21%. (The national average is 4.3%.) 79% of spouses who applied for a GS position on the bases where they live were rejected. 63% of those with jobs have not been promoted since marrying their active duty spouse. 31% serve as caregivers to their wounded warrior spouses. So, yeah, having a ship named after a Navy spouse is kind of a big fucking deal.
Gabby Giffords served her country in Congress. She won re-election twice. She was only the third woman in Arizona’s history to be elected to Congress. Until her husband retired, she was the only member of Congress whose spouse was an active duty member of the military. When her husband, Capt. Kelly, deployed, he was strapped to a rocket and blasted into space. I do not say that to discount the dangers of a typical Navy deployment; only to emphasize the unique challenges Gabby Giffords dealt with as a Navy wife.
We all deal with stressors during deployments. Sick kids (or pets), gremlins in the appliances, flat tires, car accidents, etc. During Capt. Kelly’s last deployment aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour, Gabby Giffords was back on Earth having surgery on her skull. On. Her. Skull. Her resiliency and determination should serve as an inspiration to the USS Giffords crew and Navy spouses near and far. If it doesn’t, then I can only pity you.