While walking in our local city cemetery this weekend, I encountered the grave of a young sailor named Zack Marvin Bonds (1896-1926).
I was (and still am) curious about what had become of this young man half a world away in Tutulia, Samoa, a place geographically and culturally quite distant from central Texas.
The Naval Historical Center maintains a helpful and interesting list of "Casualties: U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Personnel Killed and Wounded in Wars, Conflicts, Terrorist Acts, and Other Hostile Incidents" from the Revolutionary War through 2010. A review of that list revealed only two incidents of enemy action in 1926, both in China. On 5 September, "USS Stewart (DD-224) fired on by Chinese troops near Wuchang, Yangtze River, China," an action in which two U.S. sailors were wounded, but no one (on USS Stewart) was killed. Then, on 19 September, "USS Pigeon (AM-47) fired on Chinese below Hanyang, China," and three U.S. sailors were wounded, but USS Pigeon suffered no fatalities.
(It is interesting to note that these isolated events were reported as discrete incidents in the Navy's casualty listing, since they were not part of any wider declared conflict; World War I is listed as a single item, with 431 sailors killed in action and 819 wounded, and 2,461 Marines killed in action and 9,520 wounded.)
Anyway, the Naval Historical Center's list pretty firmly rules out a "hostile incident" as the cause of Mr. Bonds' death.
The note on his gravestone that he "died in the service of his country" indicates that he was on active duty at the time of his death, but the death need not have been directly related to his duties; illness and accident are the most likely possibilities.