NEW YORK (PIX11) – It’s become an annual ritual ahead of Veterans Day to honor a group of extraordinary women who serve our country and local communities.

Seven women, including two Marine veterans, were honored for their service in a ceremony at the Women’s Veterans Memorial Grove in Central Park on Wednesday.

“Each of these women has done an incredible job giving back to their communities, whether it’s through military service, supporting service members, veterans and their families, and through serving their communities in the government,” said Zeita Merchant, a captain with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The awardees included Mercedes Elias, the only female veteran to serve as CEO of a financial services firm on Wall Street.

“I’m a woman. I’m a Marine, and I’m a Latina,” Elias said. “For women to know what possibilities are out there for them, they need to see people that look like them, people that had the same experiences that they had growing up.”

Other recipients included Tania Kinsella, deputy commissioner of the NYPD; Christina Farrell, deputy commissioner of New York City Emergency Management; and Kathy Roth-Douquet, the CEO of Blue Star Families.

Roth-Douquet spoke about the challenges facing servicemen and servicewomen and their families.

“It’s harder than it needs to be, and it makes it harder for people to continue to serve. But we need them to continue to serve because we need security to have stability, to have prosperity, so that we can have freedom so that we can have justice,” said Roth-Douquet, who co-founded the military family organization Blue Star Families.