NEW BERN - Two days after an extremist attack killed four Americans in Libya, a local sailor is now on board a cruise-missile destroyer off the country's coast, awaiting orders from the president.
Will Toler, 21, joined the Navy in the spring of 2011. The New Bern High School graduate serves aboard the U.S.S. Laboon, originally deployed to provide ballistic missile defense for NATO in the Mediterranean.
The ship was docked in Crete Tuesday, when it was ordered to reposition in response to the Sept. 11 attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
More than 5,000 miles away in North Carolina, Toler's mother, Lori, said in an interview Thursday she could never imagine the recent powder keg would explode during her son's first deployment.
"He just cherishes his family in so many ways," Toler said of her son. "And he's found that out so much more now that he's gone."
The mother said Will was not the one who told her the mission changed to Libya. She heard the news from a friend, and confirmed the reassignment online.
"I was in disbelief," Toler said. "I thought, I didn't know how to feel."
The Norfolk-based sailor has been deployed since July. Toler said she does not know the next time she will speak with her son.
"There is no telling. He's in hostile territory waters. So he won't be talking to us until he gets back to an area where he's able to speak. That can't happen now."
The ship is now in position off the Libyan coast, it's exact location remains undisclosed. No specific mission has been revealed, but the crew has the flexibility to respond to any mission ordered by the president.
"There is so much animosity towards America. You worry," Toler said. "And your son is out there. This is scary for me, as well as all the parents out there who have to deal with this."
With uncertainty pervading, the New Bern mother says turning to her friends for support keeps her going.
"It's the only thing I do to get through. God is so good to us through friends in the community... We just have to stay strong and hope they come home ok."
The U.S.S. McFaul, the second destroyer dispatched to the Libyan coast, is en route from the Strait of Gibraltar. Both warships are equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles, capable of striking targets hundreds of miles away.
Thursday, Libyan authorities arrested four people accused of instigating the attack against the United States' consulate in Benghazi. U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed when gunmen attacked the consulate and a safe house.
The attackers launched the assault while a protest mob amassed outside the consulate gates, blaming America for a film they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad.