"I had a sticker on my car that said, 'I support the troops,' and a man came up to me and asked how I support them," Carey said. "All I could say was that I'm on their side and I pray for them."
But the man meant if Carey did anything physically to support the troops, and Carey had to say no.
"He wasn't putting me down," Carey said. "He was trying to think of what he could do to help."
And that's when Carey realized his prayers weren't enough. He wanted to do more to support the armed forces. So, Carey got in touch with John Howard, voluntary service coordinator for the Veterans Affairs Sierra Nevada Health Care System (VASNHCS).
"He said they needed toothpaste and toothbrushes and walkers and electric carts," Carey said. "Somebody has to help buy all that. There's a great need in this area for this."
Now Carey spends his days and nights, sometimes until 1 a.m., collecting aluminum cans and plastic bottles so he can be that somebody. But he knew his efforts alone wouldn't raise enough money to make any kind of significant contribution. So, Carey contacted local businesses such as the Peppermill Hotel Casino and John Ascuaga's Nugget in an effort to collect their cans as well.
"And I've been going to Wal-Mart and gas stations all month," Carey said. "They all know me now."
Carey said it's great to have businesses helping out but he wants the average Joes to pitch in too.
"Many people have cans and just don't know what to do with them," Carey said.
So he's happy to take them off people's hands. On May 3 and 4, Carey is hosting Can-o-Rama. The Grocery Outlet on the corner of Oddie Boulevard and Sullivan Lane gave Carey permission to use part of its parking lot that weekend so donors who also want to help the troops can drop off their cans and plastic bottles. Carey said someone would be on hand all the time so cans can even be dropped off in the wee hours of the morning.
"We're hoping to pick up cans from the Cinco de Mayo celebrations going on that weekend," Carey said.
Recycling cans in Nevada pays 50 cents per pound. The money Carey collects from the cans and bottles will be donated to VASNHCS and the Veteran's Guest House. The Guest House, on the corner of Locust and Taylor streets in Reno, is a home for U.S. military service veterans receiving outpatient treatment and for families of veterans who are hospitalized in the area.
"It's a real nice house," Carey said. "It can house five families at a time. But if you happen to be the sixth family they put you up somewhere else."
Since Carey has never organized a public event such as Can-o-Rama before, he isn't sure what to expect. He said it may be just a one-time event but it depends on the turnout.
"If it goes well — if we can give the veterans a good check — and if it makes sense, we'll continue on," Carey said.
And he would like nothing more than for that to be the case.
"Now I truly feel that when I put that sticker on my car I truly am supporting them," Carey said. "It may be meager but I'm trying."