The jaw-dropped expression of Army Spc. Devin Carey said it all.
As the soldier’s family, friends and fellow motorcycle enthusiasts looked on with delight Saturday, Carey saw what was once his beat-up old bike unveiled as a gleaming red, white and blue rocket.
Then he uttered a common expression of surprise that can’t be printed in a family newspaper, and everyone laughed.
Call it "Pimp My Ride: Patriotic Edition." More than a dozen bikers, mechanics, body technicians and performance specialists chipped in to make nearly $8,000 in improvements to Carey’s 2001 Yamaha R6 sports bike while he served his country with the 82nd Airborne in Iraq.
Carey, a West Hall High School graduate, returned from his yearlong deployment Tuesday, and Saturday got the big surprise at HFD1 Motorsports, a performance bike shop in Sugar Hill.
The idea for the project came from Kenny Duval, a friend of shop owner Charles "Huffdaddy" Huffstetler.
Before Carey left for his deployment a year ago, he left his motorcycle at the shop for a tuneup.
Back then, the bike, which had been wrecked at least once, had colors of "Georgia red clay, scraped metal, broken plastic and black primer," Huffstetler said.
"It was pretty beat up."
Duval, who had never met the soldier prior to Saturday, thought it was the perfect opportunity for bikers to show their appreciation for Carey’s sacrifice.
A call went out over Internet message boards in August, and within a day, the first donations rolled in. Some gave cash, others parts, some their labor. One paint and body specialist donated more than $700 of work. Another shop gave $800 in parts.
In the end, Carey’s bike had all-new paint, a rebuilt performance engine, new shocks, brakes and tires.
"We’ve rebuilt it from the ground up," Huffstetler said.
Duval said bikers didn’t hesitate to help.
"There’s a lot of ex-military in the motorcycle community that jumped at the chance," he said. "It’s a good cause — especially for a person who signed up after the bullets started flying."
Carey, 28, enlisted about 18 months ago after graduating from the Art Institute of Atlanta. He gets to spend a year stateside before his scheduled deployment to Afghanistan in November 2010.
"It takes a real hero to say, ‘I want to go’ during an active campaign," Huffstetler said.
Carey’s mother, Cindy Carey, called the donation "overwhelming."
"The kind of support you get when your child’s in harm’s way — it just means everything."
Devin Carey was nearly speechless over the gift.
"There’s guys over there that have done a lot more than me," he said. "I don’t deserve it."