"I'm going to miss her a lot," said Tracy Culbert, the nurse who cared for Giffords over the last two weeks in Tucson and accompanied her on the plane. "She's a very gentle person, and her personality is coming out with touches. ... I'm very lucky to know her."
Giffords' husband, Kelly, who lives in Houston, said Thursday that she soon would be "back at work" and predicted she would be walking around in a couple of weeks.
"I'm extremely hopeful that Gabby will make a full recovery," he said. "She is a fighter like nobody else I know."
In other signs of progress, Giffords was taken outside Thursday for the first time since the attack so she could get some sunlight. She stood up Wednesday for the first time with assistance and looked out of a hospital window.
Giffords already has been able to scroll through an iPad, one of many steps described by her doctors as "fantastic achievements forward."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.