WASHINGTON – Rep. Gabrielle Giffords marked another milestone in her recovery Thursday, serving Thanksgiving dinner to troops at a Tucson, Ariz., military base in what her office said was the first constituent event since an attempt on her life in January.
Giffords and her husband, retired Navy Capt. Mark E. Kelly, joined approximately 400 airmen, military retirees and their families at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in her district. On the menu: a traditional Thanksgiving meal, plus prime rib, baked ham, shrimp, assorted cheeses and desserts.
Her office said that base officials initially asked for a member of Giffords’ staff to take part in the meal, but the three-term Democrat “decided she wanted to go herself.” Giffords is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Giffords used only her left hand as she served, a sign that physical damage remains from the injuries she suffered when she was shot in the head during a January constituent event, the Associated Press reported. Kelly supported her from her left side as she worked the turkey station on the serving line.
Six people were killed and 13 others were injured in the mass shooting. The suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, has pleaded not guilty and is being forcibly medicated at a Missouri prison facility after mental health experts determined he suffers from schizophrenia.
After helping to serve the meal, Giffords mingled with service members, exchanging pleasantries and mostly one-word greetings and responses.
She did tell Airman 1st Class Millie Gray, of Kansas City, Mo., “Happy Thanksgiving, thank you for your service,” the AP reported.
Gray said she had intended to only grab a plate and head back to her dorm to eat, until she heard that Giffords was going to be there.
“Her story is so inspirational, it really made me proud. I felt very proud and very humble,” Gray told the AP. “It just feels really good to see that she is out here supporting the troops, and just continuing to be … a strong role model for Americans in general.
Giffords has what her office calls a “rigorous daily schedule of physical, occupational and speech therapy” to deal with the injuries she sustained.
Her progress was documented in a recent ABC News special, tied to the release of a new book written by Kelly. The interview showed a woman who appeared confident and determined, but still far from able to carry on a detailed conversation.
She said she would run again for Congress next year only if she got better.