Image: Gabrielle Giffords
P.K. Weis  /  AP
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords hasn't been back to Tucson since she was shot five months ago.
NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 6/17/2011 11:37:55 PM ET 2011-06-18T03:37:55

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords arrived in Tucson on Friday for Father's Day weekend visit, her first time back to her hometown since she was shot in January.

"We've been dreaming of this trip for some time," said Giffords' astronaut husband Mark Kelly in a news release. "Gabby misses Tucson very much and her doctors have said that returning to her hometown could play an important role in her recovery."

C.J. Karamargin, Giffords' communications director, said that the congresswoman arrived at 5:30 p.m. local time.

"We are hopeful that this will be the first of many visits, up to the time that she's able to come back permanently," Karamargin told azcentral.com. "Tucson is her home. This is where she was born. This is where she grew up. Gabby is a child of the desert, and this is where her heart is."

Kelly said the trip "is sure to be very emotional" and asked the news media to respect their privacy.

Giffords was released from the Houston hospital just three days ago, on Wednesday, five months after being shot in the head during a Tucson political event. She had been in the rehab facility since late January, a few weeks after the shooting that killed six and wounded 13.

Giffords will make no public appearances and will grant no interviews during her visit to Tucson, Karamargin said.

He said Giffords traveled by private plane from Houston to Tucson on Friday with Kelly and one of his daughters and would spend Father's Day weekend with her family.

Story: 'Emotional roller-coaster' ahead for Giffords

Karamargin said Giffords often speaks of Tucson and has said repeatedly, "I want to go home."

She has left Houston twice since she arrived there in January, first in late April for Kelly's space shuttle launch. When the launch was scrubbed for mechanical reasons, she returned to Florida again for the successful May 16 launch.

Giffords is now living in Kelly's home in League City, a town 26 miles south of Houston. She will continue outpatient therapy at the same hospital where she underwent rehabilitation.

Giffords, who was shot in the left side of her head and has been struggling to relearn how to speak and walk, will be assisted by a 24-hour home health provider, according to a statement from the hospital.

Twelve other victims were wounded, and six were killed, including a federal judge, a young girl and a Giffords aide.

Jared Loughner, a 22-year-old college dropout charged with the shooting, was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial and sent to a Missouri hospital for federal prisoners last month.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Giffords to pay visit to her Tucson home

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