Big Sky Tattoo Expo in Billings Raises Funds for Warrior Wishes Montana


In the heart of Billings, Montana, ink enthusiasts and supporters gathered for the third annual Big Sky Tattoo Expo, transforming the Metropark Expo Center into a vibrant hub of creativity. From Friday to Sunday, tattoo artists showcased their skills, leaving an indelible mark on the attendees and a cause close to their hearts. The event, spearheaded by Cooper, a passionate tattoo artist, and disabled Iraqi veteran, pledged its proceeds to Warrior Wishes Montana.

Cooper, who runs a successful tattoo shop, sees the expo as more than a celebration of body art; it’s a commitment to making a lasting impact. “Everything I make off the expo I donate to Warrior Wishes Montana because I make good money at my shop, and I’m a disabled Iraqi vet. I want to be able to give that handout,” he shared with enthusiasm.

Cooper tattooing while interviewing with MTN
Kelsey Boggs/MTN News Cooper is tattooing while interviewing with MTN.

The Metrapark Expo Center buzzed with activity as people eagerly lined up to get tattooed, knowing their inked experience would contribute to a noble cause. Brian Mueller, undergoing a tattoo from Cooper, expressed his dedication to the cause: “I’ve been happy to pitch in every time. I’m addicted to the pain.”

Warrior Wishes Montana, the beneficiary of the expo’s proceeds, was founded by Miguel Gonzalez in 2015. The nonprofit is dedicated to addressing the alarming rate of veteran suicides in Montana. Cooper’s admiration for the organization’s work is evident: “Miguel from Warrior Wishes does amazing things with veterans yearly. I want to be able to give back to that to help veterans out.”

Brian Mueller
Kelsey Boggs/MTN News Brian Mueller

The sobering statistics on veteran suicides in Montana serve as a backdrop to the expo’s philanthropic mission. According to the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, the suicide rate for veterans in 2020 was 57.3% higher than for non-veterans. Cooper, drawing from his personal experiences, emphasized the urgent need for support: “I have a lot of first-hand experience with the suicide rate. There’s a lot of people in my unit that died of suicide when we got home.”

The expo raises funds and serves as a poignant reminder for veterans to look out for each other. Cooper’s message is clear: “It takes 2 seconds to be nice. No one knows what you’re going through, and many people don’t speak up on it, especially men, especially male soldiers.”

Miguel Gonzalez
Kelsey Boggs/MTN News Miguel Gonzalez

For non-veterans attending the expo, it’s an opportunity to express gratitude for their sacrifices. Charlie Wheeler, a body piercer attending the event, emphasized the need for support: “Our vets need support. They don’t get enough. Like I said, they don’t get the support they need. We’re asking them to do an unthinkable act, and they don’t get support when they get home.”

Charlie Wheeler
Kelsey Boggs/MTN News Charlie Wheeler

More than just a tattoo event, the expo fosters camaraderie, awareness, and compassion. Cooper sums up the essence of the gathering: “It’s about having a good time, having fun, getting some tattoos. It’s the one thing you’ll take to the grave with you. In the end, we get to help veterans. That’s just the biggest plus.”

Tattoo in the making
Kelsey Boggs/MTN News Tattoo in the making

As the event continues into Sunday, attendees are not just leaving with new tattoos; they’re departing with a sense of community and the knowledge that their contributions make a meaningful difference in the lives of Montana veterans.

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