SAN ANTONIO — Actress Jamie Gray Hyder may be known for her work in front of the camera.
But it’s what she does behind the scenes as an advocate for veterans and service members that drew her Saturday to the Student Veterans of America national conference to host the organization’s awards ceremony for a second year in a row.
“When they asked me to come back I was so excited to be able to do that,” she said in an interview with Military Times.
Hyder, a 32-year-old Washington, D.C., native, is known for playing Danielle in the HBO show “True Blood” and Lucia Solano on “Graceland.” But her favorite role was as Lt. Nora Salter in the video game “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare,” released in 2016.
It was that character, she said, that led to unforgettable interactions with service members as she trained for the role, which in turn sparked a newfound passion as an advocate for the men and women who serve in the military.
The role also carried a weight unlike any of her other roles, as she portrayed the first female lead of the “Call of Duty” franchise.
“While that came with a lot of excitement, it immediately became daunting because I knew that I had a responsibility to accurately represent the women who are in our Armed Forces,” she said.
Hyder’s eyes welled with tears as she told a story of meeting a room full of young women sailors in San Diego who thanked her and presented her with gifts. They told her that seeing her in the game had made it easier for people to accept them in their positions.
“I was floored by that,” she said. “You think of what you’re doing as entertainment. But the fact that these women were telling me that what I was doing was improving their quality of life was something that was extremely touching for me and that I took very seriously.”
SVA spokesman Barrett Bogue said it was an easy decision to invite Hyder to host the awards ceremony in San Antonio because of her background and passion for the veteran community.
“Jamie was our master of ceremonies last year at NatCon17, and she did such a great job that the student veterans and attendees loved her so much that they asked for her to come back this year,” he said.
Hyder’s favorite part was after the ceremony, sharing drinks with veterans and getting a chance to hear their stories, she said.
“That’s really the part of veteran outreach that I enjoy,” she said.
Hyder works closely with the Call of Duty Endowment Fund, which focuses on veteran employment, and supports the mission of organizations like it and SVA that are providing resources to veterans who may come back from the battlefield feeling isolated.
“While we all know it takes bravery to serve and to fight, it also takes bravery to come back and put yourself in a position to better yourself, knowing that you are potentially going to feel like an outsider,” she said. “There might not be a whole lot of 33-year-olds trying to get their bachelor’s, master’s, whatever it is. I absolutely am inspired by the fact that coming off of one isolating experience, [student veterans] are walking into another.”