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He said he walked over to the guards watching the site and began to talk to them, creating a distraction that the veterans used to push aside the barriers and enter the circular stone memorial. Talking to reporters later, Mr. King said he was proud to have helped.

“I rank this as one of the best days I’ve had a chance to be here in Washington — perhaps the best,” he said.

The park service said it would rethink its policies.

In the meantime, photos of the veterans defying the service and its barricades went viral online, and drew strong support from both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill.

“Good for them!” tweeted Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War.

Several lawmakers said they were planning to donate their salaries they receive during the shutdown to honor flight organizations in their home states.

“WWII vets shouldn’t face closed DC memorials. During #shutdown, I’ll donate pay to OH-based Honor Flight Network,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio Democrat, wrote in a Twitter message.