During the Texas Tech football game against Oklahoma State University on Saturday, there will be a moment where all the screaming and cheering will pause.
No fans in the stadium will make a sound. All conversations and instruments will remain quiet as a moment of silence will be conducted for a Tech alumnus who died Tuesday while serving as commanding officer of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Norfolk, Va.
The Tech flag currently flies at half-staff above Memorial Circle in honor of Capt. Tushar R. Tembe, a Red Raider who died while serving his country.
“Capt. Tembe was someone whose service we are extremely proud of,” said Jerry E. Turner, chairman of the Tech Board of Regents. “He is a representative of all the graduates who have had distinguished careers in service. As we celebrate his service, we are celebrating the service of other Tech alumni who have served in various sanctions of the military.”
In a statement from the U.S. Navy, Tembe, a Tech petroleum engineering graduate, was taken to Bons Secours Maryview Medical Center and was later pronounced dead. The cause of his death is currently unknown.
Tembe was born in India and moved with his family to New York City as a child. He was 49 years old at the time of his death and is survived by his wife, Marianne, whom he married in 1992, and their two sons, Ian, 16, and Connor, 14.
“We offer our sincere condolences to Capt. Tembe’s wife and children, his family and the Truman crew,” said Rear Adm. Ted Branch, commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, in a news release the Navy issued Wednesday. “They are in our thoughts and our prayers as we deal with this tragic loss. Capt. Tembe served the Navy and our nation honorably and with great distinction. We honor his outstanding contributions to our nation.”
John Fleming, who knew Tembe for more than 20 years, first met him in 1989 when Fleming was the commanding officer of Striker Fighter Squadron (VFA-132). He and Tembe were privateers who deployed on the USS Forrestall aircraft carrier.
“We called him ‘Haaji,’” Fleming said. “When we deployed on the Forrestall, we would take 80-100 aircrafts out on an aircraft carrier and go to the Mediterranean and participate in an event operation called ‘Provide Comfort’ that actually helped protect people against Saddam Hussein.”
Fleming said Tembe was a great junior officer at the time.
“He was very well-respected in the squadron and successful in becoming qualified as a fighter pilot for the Navy,” he said.
After he was in Fleming’s squadron, Tembe was selected to attend Empire Test Pilots’ School, which Fleming said is an honor.
Tembe went to England as an exchange student and was trained by the British military in becoming a test pilot. From there, he went to a tour in Maryland as a naval test pilot. He would perform carrier suitability tests, during which he would go out and make sure naval aircrafts were qualified to land onboard ships.
He was then selected for command and served as a commanding officer of the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA-87), whose members are nicknamed the Golden Warriors.
Tembe was also selected to command the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier (CVN-69) and the USS Nashville (LPD-13), the latter of which he took on a humanitarian mission to Africa where the crew went out and gave assistance to several African countries along the coast.
After that, Tembe was selected to command the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), where he served as commanding officer for three months.
“He was a great officer, a great leader and a great American,” Fleming said. “He was well-respected by the many he led.”
Tembe was also very involved with his family. He was active in Norfolk Academy sports and local sports programs in Virginia Beach, Va., in which his sons participated in. While his sons played soccer, baseball and basketball, Tembe enjoyed playing golf.
“He was a wonderful father, and an excellent golfer,” Fleming said. “He was very active in family sports.”
Fleming said Tembe was a very honest person and an extraordinary leader.
“He was well-liked by his Navy associates and also well-respected in the community,” he said. “He was also very smart. He went through a good engineering program and, with his test pilot background, he was a very logical thinker.”
Fleming said he saw Tembe every year since 1989 and that Tembe smiled all the time.
“We were very close personal friends and shipmates,” Fleming said. “He had a well-rounded personality and was just an overall great guy.”