Giffords awards medal to astronaut husband

WASHINGTON Fri Oct 7, 2011 4:53am IST

Captain Mark Kelly hugs his wife U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) after receiving the Legion of Merit from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during Captain Kelly's retirement ceremony in the Secretary of War Suite in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, October 6, 2011. REUTERS/David Lienemann/The White House/Handout

Captain Mark Kelly hugs his wife U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) after receiving the Legion of Merit from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during Captain Kelly's retirement ceremony in the Secretary of War Suite in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, October 6, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/David Lienemann/The White House/Handout

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords gave her astronaut husband a medal at his retirement ceremony on Thursday and got a warm welcome on her second visit to Washington since a gunman shot her in January.

Giffords, who is recovering from a bullet wound to the head, smiled, blew kisses and waved to a small gathering of friends, relatives and fellow members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, during the ceremony at a government building next to the White House.

Vice President Joe Biden and Giffords awarded her husband, Naval Captain Mark Kelly, two medals to honor his 25 years of service with the Navy and NASA.

"It's not everyday that you encounter examples of sheer, sheer courage, selflessness and dedication like you see in this couple," Biden said after awarding Kelly the Legion of Merit.

Kelly flew 39 missions during the Gulf War and made four trips into space, including commanding the last mission of the shuttle Endeavour.

"Gabby, you remind me everyday to deny the acceptance of failure, that you inspire devoted public service and make me jealous of your true grit and determination," Kelly said as he thanked his wife for her support.

Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, was shot at a public event for constituents in Tucson. Jared Lee Loughner has been charged in the shooting spree that killed six people and wounded 12.

Giffords has been in rehabilitation in Houston and she made an emotional appearance in Congress during the summer.

Wearing a violet jacket, black pants and sneakers, with her hair longer than in her August appearance, Giffords pinned the Distinguished Flying Cross on her husband's jacket.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Peter Cooney)

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