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Giffords returning to Washington for husband's event

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in January, will return to Washington on Thursday to attend her astronaut husband's military retirement ceremony, her spokesman said on Wednesday.

The visit will mark only the second visit to Washington for Giffords since she was shot in a January 8 shooting spree in Tucson that killed six people and wounded 12 others.

The Arizona Democrat has been undergoing long-term rehabilitation therapy in Houston.

"This is just a private visit for her to support her husband and she will return to Houston shortly after the ceremony," the congresswoman's spokesman, Mark Kimble, told Reuters. "It will be a quick trip."

Kimble said Giffords was making the trip to honor her husband, Naval Capt. Mark Kelly, and has no plans to go to Capitol Hill or conduct any other congressional business.

"She is very focused on her rehabilitation and she wants to return to it as quickly as possible," he said.

The Arizona Democrat made a dramatic return to Congress on August 1, making a surprise appearance on the floor of the House of Representatives to vote on raising the nation's debt ceiling. She was met with thunderous applause.

It was her first time there since she was shot in the head during the shooting spree at a constituent event.

College dropout Jared Lee Loughner, 23, has been charged with 49 crimes in the shooting spree.

Kelly, 47, announced his retirement from the Navy and NASA after 25 years in June.

He flew 39 missions during Operation Desert Storm and made four trips into space, including commanding the last mission of the space shuttle Endeavour.

At the ceremony, Kelly will be awarded the Legion of Merit and Distinguished Flying Cross medals.

Kelly and Giffords are collaborating on a memoir titled, "Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope" It is scheduled for release on November 15.

(Edited by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune)

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